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European Union: Measures Adopted Following Brexit

(Aug. 8, 2016) Within days following the United Kingdom’s referendum vote of June 23, 2016, to withdraw from the European Union, the EU’s three main decision-making institutions — the Parliament, the Commission, and the Council — took actions in response, such as calling on the United Kingdom to start negotiations to leave the EU by triggering the withdrawal mechanism stipulated in article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. (Treaty on European Union, art. 50, Consolidated Versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, 2016 O.J. (C 202) 1, EUR-LEX.)

European Parliament Actions

On June 28, 2016, the European Parliament, following a meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission’s President, and Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Minister of Defense of the Netherlands, which held the EU Council presidency until the end of June 2016, adopted the Resolution on the Decision to Leave the EU Resulting from the UK Referendum. (Press Release, MEPs Call for Swift Brexit to End Uncertainty and for Deep EU Reform (June 28, 2016), EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT NEWS; European Parliament Resolution of 28 June 2016 on the Decision to Leave the EU Resulting from the UK Referendum (Resolution), 2016/2800(RSP), European Parliament website.) The Parliament emphasized that the UK must respect the will of the people and urged the UK to trigger the mechanism to leave the EU. Because of the uncertainty created by the “Brexit” referendum, which, in the Parliament’s view, could potentially be harmful to the EU’s interests, the Parliament urged the British Prime Minister to issue a formal notification to the Council of the EU in order to initiate withdrawal negotiations. (Resolution, supra.)

The Parliament added that if the UK wanted to negotiate a different type of relationship with the EU, the discussions must take place after the withdrawal agreement is signed. (Id.) In an effort to avoid disruption of the everyday operations of the EU, the Parliament urged the Council to cancel the scheduled UK presidency, which was to begin in the second half of 2017. (Id.)

European Commission Actions

The European Commission formed a Taskforce for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom Under Article 50 of the TEU. On July 27, 2016, Junker appointed former financial services commissioner and former French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier to negotiate the UK’s exit from the EU. Barnier will begin his duties in October 2016 and report directly to the Commission. (Press Release, European Commission, President Juncker Appoints Michel Barnier as Chief Negotiator in Charge of the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 of the TEU, EUROPA (July 27, 2016).)

Soon after the referendum, Britain’s EU Commissioner, Lord Hill, resigned his post, and the Commission delegated the responsibilities for financial stability and financial services previously held by Hill to Valdis Dombrovskis. (Peter Spence, Britain’s EU Commissioner Lord Hill Quits After Brexit Vote – As Experts Warn City Could Suffer, TELEGRAPH (June 25, 2016).)

It was reported on August 2 that Juncker has nominated Sir Julian King of the UK to be Commissioner for counter-terrorism security, in spite of the referendum results and in spite of Junker’s previous threatening language that the UK would “face the consequences” of “being regarded as a third country, which won’t be handled with kid gloves.” (Adam Lusher, Why Is the EU Appointing a British Security Chief After Brexit?, INDEPENDENT (Aug. 2, 2016).) King, who will report to Juncker’s advisory team of several vice-presidents, has been assigned to implement Juncker’s vision of establishing a new EU security union, designed to fight terrorism and cybercrime, among EU Member States. Due to the UK’s uncertain position in the EU, King will not participate in ministerial meetings. (Id.)

European Council Actions

On June 29, the 27 heads of state and governments that compose the European Council, except for the UK representative and the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, held an informal meeting in Brussels to discuss the political consequences of the UK referendum. They issued a joint statement expressing their deep regret over the results of the referendum, but added that they respect the will of the majority of the British people. They also emphasized that “until the UK leaves the EU, EU law continues to apply to and within the UK, both when it comes to rights and obligations.” (Press Release, European Council, Informal Meeting of the 27 Heads of State or Government, 29 June 2016 (June 28-29, 2016), European Council website.)

The President of the Council, Donald Tusk, expressed the will of all the leaders to stay united. They agreed on the need to organize to ensure the proper withdrawal of the UK from the EU in compliance with article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. Tusk added that “no negotiations of any kind” would take place until the UK provides a formal notification to the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the EU. (Id.) The next meeting of the European Council is scheduled for September 16, 2016, in Bratislava, to further discuss the impact of the UK referendum on the EU. (Id.)

In lieu of the UK assuming the rotating presidency, which was scheduled to begin on July 1, 2017, and last until December 2017, it was decided that Estonia will take over that role. The order in which EU members will assume the rotating presidency has been scheduled through 2020. (Council of 1 January 2007 Determining the Order in Which the Office of President of the Council Shall Be Held, 2007 O.J. (L 1) 11, EUR-LEX.)