9 February 2017

  |  CBI Brussels


European Leaders meet in Valletta

The inside story and our reaction to the EU28 gathering in Malta.

European Leaders meet in Valletta

Last week, the leaders of the EU28 gathered in Valletta, Malta, for an informal Summit on the Treaty of Rome. Prime Minister Theresa May was also invited to attend and give a briefing on recently inaugurated US President Donald Trump.

The Summit began with discussions on a unanimously approved plan to combat the flow of migrants across the central Mediterranean – a route that brought a record 181,000 people to the Continent last year. The plan seeks to improve cooperation with Libya, replicating the success of the deal with Turkey that last year largely halted migrant crossings over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

During a press conference, President of the European Council Donald Tusk announced his intention to stay on for a second term, telling reporters “after talking to many leaders who expressed their support … I am ready to continue my work. But that will depend on the decision of all heads of states and governments”.

Later, in her lunchtime briefing on the US President, Theresa May urged Europe to work “patiently and constructively” with the US and reassured the EU27 that “once the administration starts functioning it will be better”.

This comes in light of the Government’s new White Paper on Brexit. Released on the 2nd February 2017, the UK Government outlined further details regarding its twelve objectives for Brexit and the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Responding to the publication of the White Paper, the CBI welcomed the commitment to seeking the freest possible trading arrangements with the EU, although noted that leaving the Single Market would reduce the options available to achieve this.

Additionally, we agree that an ambitious approach to delivering growth in international trade will be critical to the continuing success of UK business within the global market place.

However, in order to avoid regulatory cliff-edges, we believe that it will be key to ensure a smooth phase-in between the expiration of the current relationship with the EU, and the implementation of the UK-EU Free Trade Agreement.

Additionally, the CBI has been clear that the voice of business should continue to be heard in the UK and across Europe, in order to make a success of Brexit and ensure our future prosperity. We believe that business involvement from all sectors will be critical to deigning a post-Brexit migration system that will address skills and labour shortages, so that business has access to the workers the economy needs to thrive.

In response to the publication, CBI Director General, Carolyn Fairbairn, underlined that “falling back on WTO rules would be damaging for UK businesses so the pressure is on to deliver the best possible deal and will support the Government in its efforts to do so.”

For more information, please contact Elsa Venturini.