Minister Louis Grech has said that “from today the Commission has a mandate to start talks with the UK. We will focus first on providing clarity for all those affected by the Brexit decision, and ensuring a smooth separation. That is our top priority.”
The Minister, chairing the second meeting of the General Affairs Council, discussing Article 50, further added that “we are ready, we are united, and we approach these negotiations with the best will and with the clear aim of reaching a deal.”
The Council of the European Union, meeting in an EU27 format, adopted a decision to open negotiations with the UK on Brexit, and formally nominated the European Commission as an EU negotiator, whilst adopting the negotiating directives.
It was explained that the negotiating directives prioritise issues that are necessary for an orderly withdrawal, such as the rights of EU citizens in the UK and the right of UK citizens following Brexit, the financial settlement, border issues, and the single market among others.
“This phase is aimed at providing clarity and legal certainty. Only after sufficient progress has been achieved can discussions proceed on to the next phase dealing with a future relationship,” The Council said.
Minister Louis Grech, addressing a press conference with EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier – following the conclusion of the General Affairs Council – said that, “we have established the EU position on the key issues for the beginning of the talks. The rights of citizens are at the very top of our agenda and we aim for an ambitious solution, where those affected continue to enjoy their rights.”
He said that despite the obvious significance of Brexit, it will not be allowed to derail the work of the EU. The EU has an ambitious agenda for improving the lives of our citizens and that must continue. With regard to Brexit.
The Minister emphasised that there is unity among member states and they will continue to work in the spirit of the principles that have underpinned the existence of the European Union since its establishment.
During lunch, the Ministers held a frank exchange of views with Chief Negotiator Barnier and with the European Parliament Representative on Brexit Guy Verhofstadt.