Source: Pocket Brexit guide to what will happen now
As the scene of the action moves from London to Brussels, we will all need to brush up on our acronyms and the various EU bodies in order to track what is going on. The Irish government has produced a handy two-page guide.
Today EU Council President Donald Tusk is sending out guidelines in relation to Article 50 to the EU27. Just to go back to basics, the EU Council is composed of the heads of government of the member countries so obviously they do not meet day to day: their next meeting is scheduled for 29th April.
In between, they keep in touch with processes via COREPER, the permanent representatives or national ambassadors who meet more frequently in Brussels.
At their next meeting the heads of government will appoint the EU Commission to negotiate on their behalf, led by Michel Barnier. The Commissioners are like civil servants acting on behalf of the 27 governments in the Council: although they are nominated by the member countries they do not and indeed must not represent them. Phil Hogan, for example, is in Brussels to manage agriculture and rural development on behalf of the whole EU, not to make Ireland’s case on any issue.
Next comes the EU General Affairs Council which is composed of the foreign ministers of the member countries (some countries have special EU Affairs ministers who may sit on this body). The General Affairs Council will hammer out the detailed, line-by-line responses to the letter from London at a series of meetings in May and pass them to Barnier, who is setting up a Brexit Task Force of officials (including some from Ireland). The foreign ministers and the ambassadors in COREPER will have their own Brexit Working Party or Special Committee. Finally, the ‘Sherpas’ – special advisors on EU matters to the 27 prime ministers – will make sure their political masters are up to speed on what everyone else is doing.
Finally, the European Parliament will have to approve the exit deal with Britain. Its chief Brexit representative, Guy Verhofstadt, will have to be kept in the loop at every stage.