The UK leaving the EU is not the end of cooperation. Talks are ongoing to determine how the two will work together on anything from trade to transport and the fight against crime.
The EU and the UK face many of the same challenges such as climate change and police cooperation and have much to gain from working together on these issues.
The Withdrawal Agreement, which has been ratified by both parties, covers the protection of the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in other parts of the EU, the UK’s financial commitments undertaken as a member state, as well border issues (especially between the UK and the Republic of Ireland) and this needs to be implemented in full.
Future relations will be part of a separate agreement, which is currently being negotiated on the basis of the political declaration that was approved and ratified by both parties.
In a resolution adopted on 12 February, MEPs called for a comprehensive agreement that includes a level playing field to be guaranteed through robust commitments and an agreement on fisheries.
On 29 May, David McAllister, chair of Parliament’s UK Coordination Group, said in a statement: “Parliament will not consent to an agreement that does not include provisions on level playing field, fundamental rights, robust governance and a stable framework for fisheries.
“It also considers the full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, co-signed by the UK Prime Minister, to be crucial.”
On 15 June Parliament President David Sassoli attended a conference on the ongoing talks with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, European Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen. After the conference, they issued a joint statement.
A few days after that, on 18 June, Parliament adopted a report saying MEPs regret that no real progress has been achieved in the talks after four negotiating rounds and that differences remain substantial.
On 11 September, the UK coordination group and the political group leaders issued a statement expressing their concern about the UK government's proposed Internal Market Bill and demand that all provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, are fully implemented. Regarding the negotiations, the statement said that the Parliament remains committed to an ambitious partnership with the UK.
What the future relations agreement will cover
The issues in any agreement on future relations range from the exchange of goods and services to the environment, research, education and so on.
One of the key negotiations will concern the conditions and principles for future trade, including the questions of possible tariffs, product standards, a level-playing field, fisheries, the respect of fundamental rights and how to resolve disputes.
Citizens’ rights are protected by the withdrawal agreement. EU citizens in the UK and Brits in the EU have the right to continue living and working where they are now. This topic will remain a key concern for the European Parliament, for example regarding freedom of movement and health coverage for EU citizens in the UK. MEPs are following closely how the withdrawal agreement is being implemented.
Under the withdrawal agreement, there is a transition period until the end of December 2020. During the transition period, the UK has access to the single market and is subject to EU legislation, although it is no longer be able to shape new EU laws.
The aim is to conclude talks before the end of the transition period.
If no agreement is reached by the end of the transition period, the UK will trade with the EU under World Trade Organization rules.
How the negotiations work
Former commissioner Michel Barnier leads the negotiations on behalf of the EU, based on political guidelines issued by the European Council. Barnier also led negotiations on the withdrawal agreement.
MEPs are able to influence negotiations by adopting resolutions setting out the Parliament’s position. Parliament set up a UK contact group, led by German EPP member David McAllister, who is the chair of the foreign affairs committee, to liaise with EU negotiator Barnier and coordinate with parliamentary committees that are involved.
Any agreement can only enter into force if it is approved by the European Parliament and the Council. Unlike the withdrawal agreement, it is also possible that the agreement on future relations will also have to be approved by national parliaments if it refers to competences the EU shares with member states. It will also need to be approved by the UK.