UK to be denied EU decision-making role during Brexit transition

David Davis had insisted UK would want say in EU laws passed as it left bloc

The United Kingdom will not be able to block or refuse to implement new European Union laws of which it disapproves during its transition from membership of the EU, the bloc's chief Brexit negotiator said on Monday.

"It is leaving the EU. That is its choice. There are consequences," Michel Barnier said. The union would consult the UK about such laws case by case, but the "single market cannot be à la carte".

Mr Barnier was speaking after foreign ministers had backed plans for a "status quo" transition that will see the UK leave the EU at the end of March next year. At that point, however, it will be allowed to preserve all the rights of membership and be required to honour all obligations – the whole of what the bloc calls its acquis – for 21 months, except that of sharing in decision-making.

“The UK will not have a voice”

Responding to journalists’ questions about the UK’s obligations to accept and comply with new EU legislation during the transition period, Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee warned it was crucial that “the integrity of the single market is not damaged” and that “the UK will not have a voice around the table”.


The UK's Brexit secretary, David Davis, insisted in the Commons on Monday that it will want a say about EU laws passed during the transition when it has "no representation". He also demanded the right to negotiate trade agreements with third countries.

On that score, Mr Barnier said, ministers agreed that would be possible as long as any such agreements did not come into force without the EU’s permission. The UK will be able to prepare such agreements for the end of transition but also to seek agreement to roll over its rights as a member state to access such markets during transition, when it is no longer a member.

Mr Barnier noted that the EU has signed some 70 international trade access agreements with third countries, all of which will have to be asked to accept UK access to their markets on EU terms during the transition.

It was “very important”, he reiterated, that the UK now make clear its position on a future relationship. And he warned that “there would be no transition” unless the work on completing aspects of the withdrawal agreement that had yet to be agreed was finalised.

United EU

In December the EU27 had agreed that sufficient progress had been made in the talks to allow phase-two discussions to open, but “sufficient progress does not mean full progress”, he said. The issues yet to be dealt with, and the legal text being drafted on the December accords, were inseparable.

Mr Barnier said the decision of ministers reflected once again an impressive degree of unity within the EU institutions. He also insisted that the negotiations on transition, the treaty drafting, and the unfinished business of December had to be completed by October, to allow time for ratification in parliaments, “including the British parliament”.

Mr Davis had suggested that a December deadline would be possible.

Ms McEntee went on from the foreign ministers’ meeting to Serbia and Montenegro to help build Irish relationships with both countries, which are candidate members of the EU. Advancing their membership prospects is a key priority of the Bulgarian presidency of the European Union.

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth is former Europe editor of The Irish Times