EU ambassadors on Friday gave their approval to a document that would allow the next European Commission to start work in December without a U.K. commissioner, according to three diplomats.
The document, previewed in Friday’s Playbook, was only given a few minor tweaks by the ambassadors, the diplomats said. Every EU country — minus the U.K., which abstained — signed off on the text. It will now be put on the agenda of a meeting of EU development ministers on Monday as a so-called A-point — meaning it will be approved with further discussion.
The European Commission set a deadline of Friday midnight for the British government to respond to an infringement procedure, in which the U.K. is accused of violating EU law by refusing to put forward a nominee. But so far London has not responded and is not expected to do so.
The EU’s legal teams have been working to come up with a solution that will make the new Commission legitimate even though it won’t respect the rule that each member state should have a commissioner.
One point that was added to the document by the ambassadors was that “we reaffirm that although 27 are proposed, the European Commission is composed of a number of members equal to the number of member states,” a diplomat said.
Member states were also notified on Friday about two letters that are part of the procedure for the ratification of the new Commission. Both the letters, seen by POLITICO, concern the list of new commissioners. The first one is from the ambassador of Finland, which currently holds the presidency of the Council, to Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, the second one is from von der Leyen to Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne.
Apart from the list of new commissioners, the first letter contains also language on the decision to go ahead without the U.K that widely reflects the wording of the Council decision agreed by EU ambassadors. The fact that London has not met its obligation to nominate a commissioner “cannot undermine the regular functioning of the Union and its institutions and thus cannot constitute an obstacle to the appointment of the next Commission in order for it to start as soon as possible exercising the full range of its power under the Treaties,” the letter says.
“This is the reason why the above list does not comprise the name of a United Kingdom candidate.”
London had agreed to name a commissioner as part of a deal with the EU27 that extended the Brexit deadline to January 31 from October 31, but it has refused to do so, citing legal guidance that no international appointments should be made during a general election campaign.
The European Parliament is now scheduled to vote Wednesday to confirm the new Commission, without the British commissioner, at a plenary session in Strasbourg.