United Kingdom told settle divorce bill before talking trade deals — Brexit EU guidelines


Donald Tusk, who chairs the European Council, will send leaders of the other 27 member states his proposed negotiating guidelines for Brexit talks before presenting the main principles in Malta two days after British Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered the two-year withdrawal process.

May repeated that phrase four times in her six-page letter formally triggering Article 50 Wednesday, underscoring the importance that she places on implementing what she called a new "deep and special partnership" before the United Kingdom breaks free from the bloc.

"The UK is now on the other side of the negotiating table".

The guidelines also say the issue of citizens living in each other's countries is a priority, and call for "flexible and imaginative solutions" for the issue of the U.K.'s land border with Ireland.

The EU has proclaimed its unity on Brexit, even as it reels from Britain's intention to become the first member state to leave in the bloc's 60-year history.

Speaking in Malta on Friday morning, Tusk admitted that Brexit talks would be hard and perhaps even confrontational but stressed that the European Union does not seek to punish Britain for its decision to leave.

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

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He jibed that there would be no extra punishment for Britain because "Brexit in itself is already punitive enough".

European Union leaders hope to resolve the divorce issues by the end of the year before moving on to the future relationship and a possible transition.

Mr Muscat, the Prime Minister of Malta, added: "We do believe that they are decent partners, people who will not bargain on the security of any of our citizens and I do believe that we will start these negotiations in a spirit of honest co-operation".

The EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said on Friday that the effect of Brexit on the bloc's joint defense and security operations would be minimal.

But he dismissed suggestions London will use its security clout as a bargaining chip with Brussels during break-up talks as a misinterpretation of the fact.

People must not be used as bargaining chips by any side, and this issue should be settled as quickly as possible, said Muscat, whose country holds the rotating European Union presidency from January to June this year.

Further complicating things in the full withdrawal negotiations will be Gibraltar, the British overseas territory on the Mediterranean that Spain has wanted back since it ceded it more than three centuries ago.

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This means that businesses in the United Kingdom will officially lose access to the EU's single market on March 29, 2019 - unless they agree on a transition deal.

A spokesman for May said the guidelines showed a constructive approach.

"I wish the prime minister good luck and good fortune in her negotiations until she comes to true glory and is welcomed back to this House as a 21st century Gloriana". "However, I stand unequivocally with the prime minister as she calls for a united approach to a new future".

The requirement is part of the draft guidelines released by Donald Tusk, the EU Council president, in reply to Theresa May's Article 50 notification letter.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson also insisted Friday that Britain's commitment to European defense and security is "unconditional" and "not some bargaining chip in any negotiations" over Brexit.

The U.K. government on Wednesday officially began the process of leaving the European Union, more than nine months after the electorate voted for Brexit.

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