The regular end-of-year summit of EU leaders will last only one day and will end with a dinner where Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is not invited, the indicative programme of the meeting showed yesterday (1 December).
Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council who chairs EU summits, invited leaders for a shorter one-day meeting to be held in Brussels on 15 December.
EU summits usually last two days.
As Tusk had promised, the summit will start earlier this time (11.30 instead of 15.00) and will end at 18.30 with a press conference by the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, and the Prime Minister of Slovakia, the country holding the rotating presidency of the EU Council.
Leaders of the 27 EU countries will continue their meeting in a working dinner which May will not attend, the programme showed.
Since the Brexit referendum in June, EU leaders have only met once without Britain, on 16 September in Bratislava, in an “informal” format. Although leaders met in the Slovak capital with the intention to discuss the EU’s future after the UK leaves, the impression from the final presser was that they actually discussed Brexit.
Meetings without the UK prime minister are called “informal” because only the 28 EU member states can formally take decisions on behalf of the EU.
The UK prime minister will still be a full member of the European Council after Article 50 is triggered, setting off formal Brexit negotiations between the EU and the UK. But the 27 heads of state and government will then be able to formally meet as 27, to discuss Brexit-related issues only.
For their next summit in spring, leaders are likely to meet for the first time in the New Europa building.