United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union - Ministry for Foreign Affairs
United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union
In Brexit, Finland's principal objective is to safeguard Finland's interests as a Member State of the European Union. This means, for example, that the unity of the EU and its well-functioning single market will not be put at stake.
In a referendum on whether the UK should remain in the EU, held on 23 June 2016, as many as 51.9 per cent of voters chose to leave the European Union. As a result of the referendum, the UK submitted its formal withdrawal notification to the EU on 29 March 2017. The notification marked the beginning of a two-year negotiation period for the terms of withdrawal, which will end on 29 March 2019.
The negotiations on a withdrawal agreement started after the United Kingdom had notified the European Council of its intention to leave the European Union. The aim is to reach a withdrawal agreement by October 2018 so that the parties would have time to finalise and adopt the deal. The draft withdrawal agreement and other negotiation documents are published on the European Commission website.
The draft withdrawal agreement also covers the necessary provisions on the transitional arrangements. If the EU and the UK reach an understanding on the withdrawal agreement, it will become effective on 30 March 2019 and be followed by a transition period lasting until 31 December 2020. In the transition period, the UK will comply with the EU legislation and existing international agreements. It will also remain part of the single market and the Customs Union but will no more be involved in the EU decision-making procedures.
The EU and the UK started preliminary talks on their future relationship in April 2018. The aim of these talks is to agree on a political declaration on the framework for the future EU-UK relationship. The declaration will be annexed to the withdrawal agreement. The actual negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship can be opened after the UK's departure from the EU in spring 2019. If the withdrawal agreement enters into force, the agreements and arrangements concerning the new relationship will become effective on 1 January 2021 after the end of the transition period.
The UK’s withdrawal from the EU is discussed in different EU institutions. The European Commission, with Michel Barnier as the Chief Negotiator, is in charge of the negotiations with the UK on behalf of the EU. The European Commission negotiates with the UK, based on the guidelines set by the European Council and the negotiation directives issued by the EU General Affairs Council. These guidelines and directives are available on website of the General Secretariat of the Council:
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä represents Finland in the European Council and Minister for European Affairs Sampo Terho is Finland's representative at the General Affairs Council. Additionally, an ad hoc Working Party on Article 50, consisting of experts from the Member States, has been established to assist the Council in the course of the negotiations. The Working Party meets on a weekly basis in Brussels.
In Finland, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is dealt with at different ministries in accordance with their respective areas of responsibilities. The Prime Minister's Office is responsible for coordinating Finland’s positions. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is in charge of matters concerning trade policy, security and defence policy and development policy. The Foreign Ministry monitors the progress of negotiations and, together with the Prime Minister's Office, exerts influence on the EU’s negotiating positions to ensure that the outcome of the negotiations would be favourable for Finland.
Finland's main objective is to safeguard Finland's interests as a Member State of the European Union. This means, for example, that the unity of the EU and its well-functioning single market will not be put at stake.
With this in mind, Finland seeks to contribute to the attainment of as close and ambitious partnership as possible that would ensure a level playing field not only in trade, but also in cooperation in other policy sectors, such as foreign policy and internal and external security.
Trade between Finland and the United Kingdom
In 2017, Finland's exports of goods to the UK amounted to EUR 2.7 billion, while the value of services exports was EUR 1.4 billion. Imports are equally important. Our economy and export industries rely on import products, raw materials, components and British services and contents. In 2017, Finland's imports from the UK amounted to EUR 1.8 billion, and the value of imported services was EUR 1.9 billion. This means that 52 per cent of Finland's imports from the UK were services.
The UK is Finland's seventh biggest trading partner.
UK withdrawal from the European Union – timeline
- 23 June 2016, in the UK's EU referendum 51.9% of voters support leaving the EU.
- 29 March 2017, the UK formally notifies the EU of its intention to leave in accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This marks the beginning of a two-year negotiating period for the terms of withdrawal set out in the Article.
- The UK will continue to be a full member of the EU until 29 March 2019. The European Council can extend the negotiating period with unanimous agreement, in mutual understanding with the UK.
- The UK withdrawal from the EU contains three elements: withdrawal, transition period, new relationship.
- Firstly, negotiations on the withdrawal agreement must be held in order to agree about certain matters, such as the UK’s financial commitments, border issues between the UK and the EU (including Northern Ireland) and the legal status of British and EU citizens. The withdrawal agreement includes provisions on the transitional arrangements, too.
- The aim is to agree on the withdrawal agreement by October 2018. After this, steps should be taken to finalise and adopt the agreement. A joint political declaration on the future EU-UK relationship will be annexed to the withdrawal agreement.
- The entry into force of the withdrawal agreement requires approval of the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and the UK Parliament.
- The withdrawal agreement is scheduled to enter into force on 30 March 2019. The transition period would start after that and last until 31 December 2020.
- During the transition period, the UK will remain part of the EU's single market and Customs Union and continue to apply EU legislation and existing international treaties but will not be involved in the EU decision-making procedures.
- The EU and the UK have launched preliminary talks on the content of their future relations, aiming to reach a joint political declaration on the framework for the future EU-UK relationship.
- The UK has notified the EU of its intention to leave the Customs Union and the single market and of its desire to exercise independent regulatory and legislative powers. Due to these parameters (red lines), the content of the future EU-UK relationship in the area of trade and investment will be based on a free trade agreement model. The EU is ready to consider other agreement models if the UK decides to abandon its stated parameters.
- The actual negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU will only begin after the UK’s departure, effective on 30 March 2019. If the withdrawal agreement is reached, the new relationship is scheduled to enter into force after the transition period on 1 January 2021.