- EU: trade deal talks can only begin once “sufficient progress” is made on the terms of Britain’s exit.
- Negotiations will take place in three phases.
- Guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens is a “matter of priority” for the EU.
- European Council President Tusk: The EU does not want to punish Britain for Brexit.
LONDON — European Council President Donald Tusk has published a letter outlining how the European Union will approach Brexit talks with Britain.
In the letter sent to UK government and the other 27 member states, Tusk reiterates that discussions over a long-term UK-EU trade deal could begin once “sufficient progress” has been made with settling the terms of Britain’s exit.
The document says that guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and Brits living elsewhere in the 28-nation bloc will be a “matter of priority” for the EU when negotiations officially get underway.
Another issue that will have to be settled before talks can begin on a future trade agreement is how much Britain pays to the EU as part of its divorce settlement. The EU has asked for a payment worth £50 billion ($US62.36 billion) but Prime Minister Theresa May and Brexit minister David Davis are keen to hand over a significantly reduced sum.
The EU’s draft letter states that Britain’s exit bill will be a once only payment.
The letter outlines the EU’s plan for talks with Britain to take place in three distinct phases.
The first phase will be used to settle key questions regarding Britain’s exit, like the divorce bill, reciprocal rights of EU citizens, and issue of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The second will be used for talks over a future trade deal. The third will be used to negotiate a possible transitional arrangement.
The draft letter will be sent to the 27 member states for approval ahead of an EU summit which is set to take place at the end of April. Two member states did not want the letter to be made public, Sky reports.
Speaking in Malta on Friday morning, Tusk admitted that Brexit talks would be difficult and perhaps even confrontational but stressed that the EU does not seek to punish Britain for its decision to leave.
“The EU 27 does not, and will not pursue a punitive approach — Brexit in itself is already punitive enough,” he said.
Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat echoed Tusk, saying that Brexit talks will be “very tough” and “unprecedented” for the European Union — but added that it “will not be a war” with Britain.
Speaking in the Maltese capital Valletta, Muscat also reiterated the EU’s stance that talks over a post-Brexit free trade deal between the EU and Britain cannot begin until key issues regarding Britain’s divorce have been settled.
This was echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and outgoing French President Francois Hollande on Thursday.
You can read the draft letter below:
Prime Minister May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on Wednesday, officially initiating Britain’s departure from the EU. Reacting to the draft letter, a government spokesperson said:
“These are draft guidelines and we look forward to beginning negotiations once they have formally been agreed by the 27 member states.
“It is clear both sides want to approach these talks constructively, and as the Prime Minister said this week, wish to ensure a deep and special partnership between the UK and the European Union.”
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