Estonia will take over the rotating EU presidency from the United Kingdom in late 2017 after London pulled out to focus on negotiations to leave the bloc, diplomats agreed on Tuesday (26 July).
In the first major step towards Brexit after last month’s shock referendum result, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that Britain would no longer take up its scheduled six-month stint next July.
Ambassadors of the 28 member states had reached a “broad agreement” on 20 July to bring forward Estonia’s presidency by six months to take Britain’s place, a spokesman for European Council President Donald Tusk said last week.
A statement on Tuesday said that decision was formalised.
According to Article 50, a member state that decides to leave the Union, shall notify the European Council of its intention. Then there is a two-year period in which the terms of the divorce are negotiated. During this time, Britain would no longer be able to take part in any EU decision-making, which also means that it could not assume the EU presidency.
Croatia, which in 2013 became the latest state to join the EU, will take over the presidency in the first semester of 2020, the members’ statement added.
Slovakia currently holds the presidency and will be followed by Malta in the first half of 2017.