What’s in the Brexit phase two guidelines?

Parameters of an agreement are outlined on the two-year transition for the UK departure

Guidelines approved by the EU summit today set the scene for phase two Brexit talks with the United Kingdom and establish the parameters of an agreement on the roughly two-year, post-Brexit transition period for the UK.

In what are being called the “anti-backsliding” provisions, the leaders warn the United Kingdom that “negotiations in the second phase can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken during the first phase are respected in full and translated faithfully into legal terms as quickly as possible.”

The commission is mandated to “complete the work on all withdrawal issues, including those not yet addressed in the first phase . . . , to consolidate the results obtained, and to start drafting the relevant parts of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

The latter will be the legally binding basis of the treaty that must be put to all member states for approval ahead on the March 2019 UK departure from the union.


The guidelines note approvingly the United Kingdom’s suggestion that a transition period after it leaves will be about two years long and will involve largely a continuation of the United Kingdom’s current relationship without its participation in decision-making.

The United Kingdom will be required during that period to fulfil all the obligations of membership - including financial - to observe the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice and will have the right to participate fully in programmes. But it will also be required to transpose all new EU legislation into its law and observe its provisions.

Talks on the transition agreement will start at the end of January, and these may be followed in March by discussions on the “framework” of the future relationship.

EU-UK trade talks can not open formally until after the United Kingdom has left the union in March 2019.

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth is former Europe editor of The Irish Times