Brexit and the single market at EU-summit

At the EU summit on 21–22 March, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and his EU colleagues agreed to offer the United Kingdom an extension until 22 May on condition that the British Parliament approves the withdrawal agreement next week. The heads of state and government also addressed the EU’s long-term climate strategy and the EU’s relationship with China.

Stefan Löfven
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven represented Sweden at the European Council meeting on March 21-22 in Brussels. Photo: The Swedish EU Representation

Brexit – the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU

On the first day of the summit, the EU leaders discussed the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU.

“I have just concluded a meeting of almost eight hours with the other heads of state and government about Brexit. We agreed to give the United Kingdom an extension until 22 May on condition that the withdrawal agreement is approved by the British House of Commons next week. If it is not approved, the British must present a plan for how they wish to take the process further by 12 April at the latest,” said Prime Minister Stefan Löfven after the meeting.

The Prime Minister emphasised the importance of continuing to work for an orderly British withdrawal from the EU.

“We have to understand what a no-deal withdrawal would actually mean for individual citizens. There are 100 000 Swedish citizens living in the United Kingdom and approximately 20 000 British citizens living in Sweden. A no-deal withdrawal will create major problems for companies and thus for our exports. Large financial values are at stake – it involves medicines, flight clearance – in other words, many different issues need to be resolved,” said Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.

The EU leaders repeated that there can be no question of renegotiating the withdrawal agreement that the EU and the United Kingdom agreed on in November 2018.

The EU’s relationship with China

At the meeting, the EU leaders prepared for the approaching EU summit with China on 9 April. The heads of state and government held a broad discussion of the EU’s relationship with China. The EU leaders emphasised the importance of partnership and of finding cooperation areas with China, while also needing to safeguard the EU’s interests within trade and investment, for example by ensuring that rules are fair.

In the area of security too, the heads of state and government emphasised that the EU must protect its interests, for example as regards sensitive infrastructure.

Jobs, growth, competitiveness and climate change

On the second day of the meeting, the EU leaders and the heads of state and government of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein marked the 25th anniversary of the single market.

The discussion then continued on the theme of jobs, growth and competitiveness. The EU leaders emphasised the importance of an efficient single market in which there are development opportunities for service companies and digitalisation, for example. They also emphasised the value of free and fair competition, a strong single market and an open, rules-based world trade system.

The EU’s long-term climate strategy

The EU leaders expressed their strong support for the Paris Agreement of 2015. In the Paris Agreement, the EU Member States committed to developing a long-term climate strategy to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020. The day’s discussions formed the initial stage of this work.

More about the EU-Summit of March 21-22