The table below compares some of the essential elements of the letter UK Prime Minister Theresa May sent to the European Council on 29 March 2017, triggering the Brexit negotiation process, with positions expressed so far by the 27 EU member states and the Commission. The fault lines and difficulties are already apparent. But then nobody pretended that the Brexit negotiations would be a walk in the park.

Theresa May Article 50 letter EU 27 position
Simultaneous negotiations of exit agreement and future deep and bold partnership. First settle exit and agree withdrawal treaty. Obtain qualified majority of member states in favour and consent by the European Parliament. Future trade agreements cannot be negotiated and concluded as long as the UK is an EU Member State.
We will of course continue to fulfil our responsibilities as a member state while we remain a member of the EU. Of course.  Although the UK will have to leave the room in the Council when Brexit is discussed.  And political questions arise whether MEPs and UK ministers can honestly vote on new legislation that will not apply to the UK, because it will enter into force after Brexit.
The UK wants a deep and special partnership that takes in both economic and security cooperation. No quid pro quo: direct linking of security cooperation and economic interests is not what we want to negotiate.
We aim to strike early agreement on EU citizens’ rights in the UK and UK citizens’ rights in the EU. Yes, we want agreement on citizens’ rights. But we also want an agreement on ongoing budgetary contributions post-Brexit for commitments to EU programs in place and for ongoing costs stemming from EU membership.
We want implementation periods to adjust in a smooth and orderly way to new arrangements and we want early agreement on this transition period. We want to know what we will transition into when considering implementation periods. That will not be clear before the exit arrangement is agreed and we have at least an idea of what the future comprehensive agreement will look like. We don’t like cherry picking for preferred sectors. To extend the 2 year deadline for negotiations requires unanimity of the EU27, not easy to achieve, certainly not from the start of the negotiations.
We propose a bold and ambitious Free trade Agreement between the EU and the UK that covers sectors crucial to our linked economies. The EU cannot negotiate free trade agreements with a current member state. Exit first. We don’t like a sectoral approach, because not all sectors are equally present in every of the 27 EU member states. We don’t want to trade off one sector against another, like fisheries against pharmaceuticals. This can only create division between member states and we want unity.
If services are to be included, the question of free movement of those delivering the services rises again.
We should prioritise how we manage the evolution of our regulatory frameworks and how we resolve disputes. The EU will want to assess the equivalence of UK regulation in relation to evolving EU law.
The European Court of Justice is our ultimate arbiter, better accept that.
Because the future partnership is of such importance to both sides, it can be agreed within 2 years. To be adopted, a future FTA will require unanimity of the member states and ratification by 38 European, national and regional assemblies. Seems not feasible within the 2 years deadline. Any EU government or parliamentary assembly can delay or block the process. Or reject the agreement.

Thomas Tindemans
[email protected]