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General Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Trade)

Volume 616: debated on Monday 24 October 2016

I attended the General Affairs Council on 18 October. The meeting was chaired by the Slovak presidency and held in Luxembourg. I also attended the extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council (Trade).

General Affairs Council

The General Affairs Council (GAC) on Tuesday 18 October discussed the preparation of the October European Council; the mid-term review of the multiannual financial framework; and implementation of the inter-institutional agreement on better law-making.

A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found at: http://www.consilium.

I also represented the Government at an extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) dedicated to the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with Canada (CETA).

Preparation of the October European Council

Discussions focused on the agenda of the October European Council—migration, trade, Russia and other global and economic issues. The UK emphasised again our role as an active and constructive participant in on going EU business, upholding both our rights and obligations until our departure.

On migration, the UK was supportive of the focus on upstream work with countries of origin and transit as part of a comprehensive approach. On trade, the UK reiterated support for an ambitious EU trade agenda, including strong support for CETA and TTIP, as an opportunity to shape the rules of global trade and provide economic benefits to citizens. On Russia, the UK expressed the need to stand firm against Russian attempts to undermine the rules based international order, and I made clear that we should be ready to consider all the tools at our disposal to end the violence in Syria.

Multiannual Financial Framework

Discussion on the MFF focused on the balance between budgetary prudence and the need to address current political challenges. There was agreement on the need to focus the next phase of discussions on how to respond to the priorities of migration, security and jobs and growth within the context of a responsible and disciplined overall approach to the budget which provides value for money.

Inter-Institutional Agreement implementation

Following the adoption of the Commission work programme, the Commission, the European Parliament, and Council will issue a joint declaration setting out the top priorities and objectives for the year ahead. The Slovakian presidency gave a presentation on this process at the GAC.

Foreign Affairs Council (Trade)

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada (CETA)

The Council discussed ongoing negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union and its member states. The UK confirmed its support for the Council decisions on signing, provisional application and conclusion of CETA. Not all other member states were able to lift their reserves. Negotiations continue.

I also wish to inform the House that the Government opted in to the Council decisions on signing, provisional application and conclusion of CETA, insofar as they relate to the temporary presence of natural persons for business, otherwise known as Mode IV. The Government are committed to taking all opt-in decisions on a case-by-case basis, putting the national interest at the heart of the decision-making process.