EU Draft Guidelines Soften Line on Future UK Relationship

Violet Powell
April 10, 2017

European Council President Donald Tusk has warned Britain that Brexit talks will not move on to setting out the U.K's future trade relationship with the EU until the bloc decides that "sufficient progress" has been made on divorce terms.

May, who officially kicked off Brexit by sending the Article 50 letter to Tusk on Wednesday, has said she wants a deal that ensures European citizens in the United Kingdom and British citizens living in the EU would be able to stay put.

Tusk said that the main duty is to minimize uncertainty and disruption for citizens, businesses and member states.

The reference to "sufficient progress" being required in the divorce talks before moving on to trade may be interpreted in London as a welcome signal that the Brexit deal does not have to be finalised before negotiations on future relations begin.

That puts them directly at odds with Mrs May who said in her formal Article 50 letter to Mr Tusk that she wanted the two negotiations to proceed in parallel.

The status of their citizens living, working and studying in Britain needs to be guaranteed, and negotiations must also prevent a legal vacuum for European Union companies, Tusk said.

The EU companies in Britain would need to be safeguarded against losing the protection of the 27-member bloc's law and regulation, he said.

Tusk said the European Union will not punish Britain in the talks, saying that Brexit itself is "punitive enough".

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But Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, who campaigned against Brexit, said the guidelines showed "the strength of the EU in these negotiations and the carelessness of the United Kingdom government in isolating themselves from our European allies".

Guaranteeing the rights of European Union citizens is a "matter of priority" for the EU.

However, they expect that the references to Ireland, the northern peace process and the Border will chime with the positive approach taken by Michel Barnier, the commission's lead negotiator, and with the language used by British prime minister Theresa May this week.

Shortly beforehand, European Union envoys from the 27 governments will meet in Brussels to study the draft guidelines. It will be sent to the 27 remaining member states for approval.

"It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country", she said.

That will also bring up the question of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, and whether Britain will consent to be bound by future ECJ rulings on disputes over the acquired rights of EU citizens that might arise in the future.

"You need to do the withdrawal agreement and you have to have an agreement on what I should call the "general terms" of your future relationship", he said.

"It is only fair towards all those people, communities, scientists, farmers and so on to whom we, all the 28, promised and owe this money", Tusk said.

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