The British vote to quit the European Union has frozen long-term policy planning at the European Commission, which is unable to make contingency plans for the UK’s exit until it receives formal notice of Britain’s intention to leave the EU.
The UK is a full member of the bloc – with all rights and obligations – until it finally leaves the EU. Before that can happen, the British government must trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
EU sources said that it was impossible to draft contingency plans or changes to flagship policies because of the Commission’s post-Brexit fatwa on talks with British officials.
EURACTIV.com asked the Commission about the impact of Brexit on the long-term planning of major policy initiatives such as the Energy Union, Capital Markets Union and Digital Single Market.
“We will not speculate on any likely impact of the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union for as long as we don’t receive an Article 50 notification,” said Commission Chief Spokesman Margaritis Schinas yesterday (30 June) in response.
“All the issues that pertain to the impact on specific policy portfolios would have to be dealt with le moment venu [when the moment comes] and of course under the condition that first we receive Article 50 notification.”
“No negotiation without notification,” said Schinas, “No negotiation of any kind before notification of Article 50.”
“We can’t draft changes because we don’t know what the Brits want and we will only find out when negotiations begin after Article 50 notification,” a source said. “So we are in a kind of stasis.”
UK Prime Minister David Cameron had said before the referendum that he would trigger the clause at the European Council meeting after the vote.
Instead he resigned after the referendum result, leaving the trigger-decision to his successor. Cameron’s replacement is expected to be in place by 9 September.
After the referendum results came in, EU bosses heaped pressure on the UK to send notification as soon as possible.
But the frontrunners to take over as Conservative leader, Michael Gove and Theresa May, this week stressed there was “no rush” to activate the article before the end of the year.
Gove said today (1 July), “We will do it when we are good and ready.”
EU leaders backed ongoing work on the Digital Single Market at the summit after the Brexit vote. Before the referendum, the Commission stressed that officials’ work would continue as normal.
Once the notification is received, EURACTIV understands that the divorce talks will likely be structured like an EU accession process in reverse.
The talks must finish in two years and are subject to a qualified majority vote in the European Council.
“There will probably be chapters for different sectors and we will work our way through them, one by one,” said one source.
“Only then will we be able to make any necessary changes to our long-term plans.”