EU leaders tell Theresa May Britain must remain in European Union until 2022 and cannot threaten to withdraw defence cooperation
Britain might not be fully out of the European Union until 2022, EU politicians have warned Theresa May.
The politicians are also demanding that the European Court of Justice will “settle any legal challenges” over the process of leaving the EU.
The MEPs also made clear that there should be no “trade-off between internal and external security including defence cooperation, on the one hand, and the future economic relationship, on the other hand”.
The warnings are contained in a draft response from MEPs to the Prime Minister’s letter formally triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that takes Britain out of the EU.
It is the first official response any of the EU institutions to Mrs May’s letter, which is due to be delivered by hand to the European Council on Wednesday.
The comments are significant as any final deal will have to be passed by a vote of MEPs in the European Parliament.
Officials in London and Brussels have been discussing the contents of the letter for weeks which is why the motion was drafted before Mrs May’s letter was received.
It notes that the UK intends to “remain outside the justification of the Court of Justice”, the Single Market and the Customs Union.
The motion says that “transitional arrangements” – when Britain is gradually leaving the EU – “should not exceed three years” which means the UK should leave the EU by 2022, at the latest.
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The motion says that “transitional arrangements ensuring legal certainty and continuity can only be agreed between the European Union and the United Kingdom if they contain the right balance of rights and obligations for both parties”.
During this period the MEPs want the UK to “preserve the integrity of European Union legal order, with the European Court of Justice responsible for settling any legal challenges”.
These arrangements “must also be strictly limited in time, and should not exceed three years, and in scope as they can never be a substitute for Union membership”.
Across 11 pages of clauses, Mrs May is warned the EU will protect its political, financial and social interests, and that the position for the UK even during the transition period will not be as positive as it is today.
A withdrawal agreement, covering financial liabilities, citizens’ rights and the border in Ireland, will need to be accepted by a majority of 72 per cent of the EU’s remaining 27 member states.
The agreement would then need to be approved by the European parliament, voting by a simple majority.
The motion makes clear that the UK will remain bound by the rules of the EU and that trade talks with third party countries are not allowed for as long as it remains a member.
The letter triggering Article 50
The MEPs also make clear that Britain will be allowed to perform an about turn on its decision to leave the EU but this “cannot be used as a procedural device or abused in an attempt to improve the actual terms of the United Kingdom’s membership”.
It also says the UK must continue to adhere to EU standards and policies in laws governing “the environment, climate change, the right against tax evasion and avoidance, fair competition, trade and social policy” if it wants a future agreement with the EU.
They oppose a “piecemeal” deal governing financial services – such as for the City of London – and “preferential access to the Single Market and/or the Customs Union”.
The motion will also require thatBritain should pay all its liabilities “arising from outstanding commitments as well as make provision for off-balance sheet items, contingent liabilities and other financial costs that arise directly as a result of its withdrawal”.