As set out in article 50, as soon as the UK has notified its plans to leave, the European Council will define the framework for the negotiations and set out the overall positions and principles. While the actual negotiations will be entrusted to Michel Barnier and the Commission, the national leaders have made clear that they will oversee and control the whole process and are ready to update the guidelines if they see fit. The Union negotiator team will also involve representatives of the European Council (ie Didier Seeuws and his team) and the rotating Presidency of the Council (Malta and Estonia in 2017 followed by Bulgaria and Austria in 2018).
The role of the European Parliament in the negotiations had threatened to throw a spanner in the works, with Guy Verhofstadt, the EP’s point man on Brexit, threatening to pursue parallel negotiations with the UK if they were not more closely involved in the whole process. The final communiqué seeks a diplomatic compromise that pays lip service to the fact the EP must give its consent to the final deal but without giving in to demands that it have a seat at the table. The EP will now be kept informed by Barnier and the Council Presidency before and after each General Affairs Council meeting and the EP President will be able to speak at the start of European Council meetings discussing Brexit.
The statement also stresses that the EU 27 remain committed to the principles set out immediately after the referendum result – no negotiation without notification; no cherry-picking; access to the Single Market require acceptance of all 4 freedoms.