Britain to drop upcoming E.U. presidency

Jul 20, 2016, 7:32 AM EDT
(Source: Rock Cohen/flickr)
(Source: Rock Cohen/flickr)

The U.K. will skip the planned six-month presidency of the European Council as it seeks to prepare for Brexit negotiations before triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The announcement came as British Prime Minister Theresa May heads to Berlin to meet her German counterpart Angela Merkel.

European Council President Donald Tusk, who had a telephone conversation with May, appreciated the P.M.’s swift decision, saying that it would help the Council to make alternative arrangements, writes The Wall Street Journal. A spokesman for Tusk said that the discussions over who will take up the vacant slot would begin immediately.

The European Council presidency rotates on a six-monthly basis between the 28 members of the European Union, writes the BBC. The presidency is currently held by Slovakia and was due to be handed over to Britain in the second half of 2017.

May, who will face her first Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, said maintaining strong trade ties in Europe was vital in ensuring that Britain benefits from its decision to leave the bloc. The German and French leaders insist that the U.K. cannot be given special concessions over access to Europe’s single market if the country doesn’t accept the E.U.’s freedom of movement rules.