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EU leaders discuss steel tariffs and Brexit


Prime Minister Stefan Löfven met his head of state and government colleagues at the European Council on Thursday and Friday 22–23 March. Trade and the threat of steel tariffs were among the issues on the agenda. Brexit and the EU’s reactions to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury were other important issues.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven is standing in front of journalists during a press conference.
“The EU now has a temporary exemption and we expect it to continue to apply. At the same time, we stand united behind the focus of measures the European Commission is preparing if the exemption is not extended. We are prepared to protect our countries’ interests in accordance with existing WTO law,” said Prime Minister Stefan Löfven after the meeting. Photo: Council of the European Union

Trade and the United States

Following US President Donald Trump's statement that he intended to introduce import tariffs on steel and aluminium products, the EU's relations with the United States and trade with the country have become one of the most important subjects for discussions between the heads of state and government.

At the meeting, the EU leaders regretted the United States' decision to introduce import tariffs on steel and aluminium. They consider that the decision cannot be justified for reasons of national security. The EU was eventually given an exemption from the tariffs, but the heads of state and government are urging the US to make the exemption permanent. They also expressed their full support for the measures taken by the European Commission to protect the EU's interests, in line with WTO rules. EU leaders value transatlantic relations and stress the importance of dialogue on trade issues.

Nerve agent attack in Salisbury

Another current issue dealt with by EU leaders was reactions to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, in which two people were seriously injured. They strongly condemned the attack, expressed their support for those affected and said that they share the United Kingdom's assessment that Russia was behind the attack.

Turkey and the Western Balkans

At the meeting, the heads of state and government condemned Turkey's continued unlawful actions in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea, and urged Turkey to immediately cease these.
The heads of state and government also established that they hope the summit in Sofia on 17 May will deepen the EU's relations with the Western Balkans. They confirmed that the European Council summit in June will deal with enlargement issues.

Single market, climate and growth

At the meeting, the EU leaders also discussed the single market and stated that decisions on changes to the single market should be implemented in an efficient manner. The EU has to adapt the single market to the digital economy and will promote competition, innovation and sustainability.

The European Council also urges the European Commission to present a long-term strategy for reducing the EU's greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the Paris Agreement.

The heads of state and government also adopted conclusions on meeting the objectives of the European Pillar of Social Rights. They support the priorities in the Commission's annual growth review and urge Member States to use them as the basis of their own reform programmes.


On Friday, the heads of state and government discussed the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU in the EU27 constellation, i.e. without the UK.

The heads of state and government approved new guidelines for the European Commission so that the Commission can now begin negotiations on future relations between the EU and the UK after Brexit.