NHS European Office

Latest updates on UK-EU withdrawal negotiations

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Latest round of Brexit negotiations

The latest round of Brexit negotiations concluded on 31 August.

Both parties agreed that the latest round of meetings had been productive and that further progress had been made on withdrawal issues concerning data protection, governance of the withdrawal agreement, the link between the withdrawal agreement and the future relationship, as well as administrative procedures.

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, reiterated that the EU wants to build a partnership with the UK that is without precedent.

As with previous negotiating rounds, the question of the Ireland/Northern Ireland border remains unresolved. M. Barnier stressed the need for a legally operational backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement and he has requested the UK to provide a certain amount of data to allow the technical work on the border to take place.

For the UK side, Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, reiterated that the UK remains committed to finding a solution to the Northern Ireland issue and to achieving an agreement by the EU's October Council.

Read the closing statement from Michel Barnier.  

“No deal” readiness: technical notices from UK Government

The Government has published several in a series of papers setting out how the UK plans to deal with a range of issues, including health, in the event that we leave the EU in March 2019 without an agreement.

The papers stress that both the UK and EU are working hard to negotiate a positive deal and that “no deal” is unlikely. However they point out that until they can be certain of the outcome of negotiations, as a responsible Government they have a duty to prepare for all eventualities, however unlikely, and to ensure business continuity.   

Here we examine at the papers in more detail.

Responding to the guidance, Niall Dickson, co-chair of the Brexit Health Alliance, said:

"What we need is a categorical assurance that patients will continue to get the medicines and treatment they need, no matter what happens in the negotiations. This guidance is a first step, but only a first step, towards that".  Read the full response from the Brexit Health Alliance.  

Government publishes its White Paper on future relationship

The Government has published its long-awaited White Paper on how it sees the future relationship between the UK and the EU post-Brexit.

While the White Paper contains no dedicated section on health, proposals with healthcare relevance include:

  • the UK's wish to see continued use of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) post-Brexit, allowing citizens travelling temporarily within the EU to receive emergency medical treatment when necessary 
  • the desire to maintain "just-in-time" supply chains for goods, thus avoiding unnecessary customs delays at the border  (particularly relevant to the supply of medicines)
  • active participation in the European Medicines Agency under new arrangements that recognise the UK will not be a Member State
  • establishing a system of mutual recognition of qualifications
  • close collaboration with EU agencies to deal with threats to public health
  • continued participation in European Reference Networks and Horizon Europe (the EU's research funding programme post-2020)

Responding to the White Paper, Niall Dickson, co-chair of the Brexit Health Alliance, welcomed the Government's commitment to maintaining the highest standards of health protection after the UK leaves the EU, but pointed out that "we should be under no illusions of the consequences for patients if we fail to plan properly and do not reach a good agreement". Read the full response from the Brexit Health Alliance.

We will publish a more detailed analysis on the White Paper's implications for the NHS and healthcare sector in due course

Conclusions from the June meeting of the European Council

The European Council met on 29 June to assess progress made so far in the Brexit negotiations.

While welcoming further progress made on parts of the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Council noted that there is a great deal of work ahead, and the most difficult tasks are still unresolved, notably the question of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

In its Statement, the Council reiterated that work must be accelerated to allow a political declaration on the framework for the future UK-EU relationship to be made ready. This, it said, would require further clarity, as well as realistic and workable proposals from the UK regarding its position on the future relationship.

The EU still expects to reach an agreement by the next European Council meeting in October 2018. 

Negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement will be accelerated over the coming weeks under the four agreed areas:

  • Basis for cooperation - to include governance and dispute settlement
  • Economic partnership - to include customs, financial services and a mobility framework
  • Security partnership
  • Cross-cutting cooperation and standalone issues - to include data protection and an accord on science and innovation. 

EU 27 guidelines on the framework for future post Brexit relations with the EU

On 23 March 2018, the European Council agreed guidelines for the next stage of negotiations between the UK and the EU on our future partnership.

The guidelines reiterate the EU’s intention to preserve the integrity of the Single Market and that there can be no “cherry-picking” of access to parts of it, and no sector by sector approach. However they also commit to seeking a balanced, ambitious and wide Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the UK and list the areas the agreement should address.

Among other things, the text refers to a framework for voluntary regulatory co-operation, which could go a long way towards meeting the Brexit Health Alliance’s “asks”, in particular regarding the supply chains for medicines and medical devices.

EU Commission publishes latest draft of legal text for Withdrawal Agreement

The EU Commission has published the latest of the draft legal text for the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK. The latest text makes clear where agreement has been reached and where further negotiations are needed.

The text translates into legal terms the Joint Report from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government on the progress achieved during phase 1 of the negotiations, published on 8 December 2017

The draft text covers six areas, including citizens' rights, the financial settlement, transitional arrangements and a protocol on Northern Ireland/the Republic of Ireland.

The Commission will first consult with Member States and the European Parliament concerning the draft text, before moving to negotiations with the UK.    

EU Council agrees its negotiating directives for phase II of Brexit talks

The European Council has adopted supplementary guidelines for phase two of the Brexit negotiations, which will address transitional arrangements (read the EU Commission's draft text for transition arrangements, published on 7 Feb 2018), as well as the framework for the UK's future relationship with the European Union.

The guidelines set out that:

  • The transition period will be time-limited, lasting from Brexit day (29 March 2019) to 31 December 2020
  • During the transition period, the UK will continue to be bound by all existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures, including the competence of the Court of Justice of the European Union
  • As the UK will continue to participate in the customs union and the single market (with all four freedoms) during the transition period, it will continue to comply with EU trade policy, to apply EU customs tariffs and ensure all EU checks are being performed on the border. The UK will not become bound by international agreements in its own capacity in fields of competence of EU law, unless authorised to do so by the EU
  • The UK will become a third country on 29 March 2019, and as such, will no longer participate in the institutions and the decision-making of the EU
  • Commitments undertaken during the first phase of negotiations must be respected in full and translated into legal terms as quickly as possible
  • Work on finding a solution to the N. Ireland/Rep. of Ireland border, will continue as a separate strand of the phase 2 negotiations

Read the press statement from Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator.

EU and UK publish their position papers

Both the EU and the UK have published a series of position papers outlining how they think their future relationship should look post-Brexit. The EU position papers can be viewed on the Article 50 Taskforce website, while the position papers for the UK can be accessed on the website for the Department for Exiting the European Union.

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