A summit of the EU heads of state and government without the UK will take place in Malta on 3 February, the Council announced on Wednesday (4 January). This is a follow-up to the Bratislava summit which started political discussions of the future of the EU after Brexit.
This will be the third time that EU leaders will meet without the UK premier since the 23 June Brexit referendum. The first occasion was a proper summit, on 16 September in Bratislava, in an “informal” format. Although leaders met in the Slovak capital with the intention of discussing the EU’s future after the UK leaves, the impression from the final presser was that they talked about Brexit, instead.
Malta holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU during the first half of 2017. The small island country was a British colony until 1964.
The second meeting of 27 member states was very brief and was held back-to-back with the regular December summit.
Following the informal Malta summit, EU leaders will convene once again in Rome, on 25 March, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties which created the foundations of today’s European Union.
“I hope that the Bratislava summit will lead to the renewing of trust and confidence in the European Union. This will only happen if and when people realise that we are delivering on our promises through loyal cooperation between member states and institutions,” Council President Donald Tusk was quoted as saying in a press release.
Meetings without the British prime minister are called “informal” because only the 28 EU member states can formally take decisions on behalf of the Union.
The UK premier 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 on their own, in order to discuss Brexit-related issues only.