President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker noted that the debate on the guidelines took only 15 minutes
Brussels.- (Sputnik, Reuters, ANA-MPA) —
Leaders of the EU member states unanimously adopted the guidelines for the upcoming talks between Brussels and London on the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, President of the European Council Donald Tusk said on Saturday.
“Guidelines adopted unanimously. EU27 firm and fair political mandate for the #Brexit talks is ready,” Tusk wrote on Twitter.
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker noted on Saturday that the debate on the guidelines took only 15 minutes.
The guidelines will bind Michel Barnier, their chief negotiator, to seek a deal that secures the rights of 3 million EU expats living in Britain, ensure London pays tens of billions of euros Brussels thinks it will be owed and avoids destabilizing peace by creating a hard EU-UK border across the island of Ireland.
“We are ready,” Barnier said. “We are together.”
They also rule out discussing the free trade deal May wants until they see progress on agreeing those key withdrawal terms.
“Before discussing the future, we have to sort out our past,” Tusk said in comments echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said “substantive issues” must first be settled.
According to the text of guidelines released by the European Council, “agreeing reciprocal guarantees to safeguard the status and rights derived from EU law at the date of withdrawal of EU and UK citizens, and their families, affected by the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Union will be the first [EU] priority for the negotiations.”
Besides, the council stipulated that “a single financial settlement… should ensure that the Union and the United Kingdom both respect the obligations resulting from the whole period of the UK membership in the Union” and stressed that future trade negotiations between London and Brussels could not result in a free trade agreement that would amount to participation in the Single Market which the United Kingdom will leave after the Brexit procedures are implemented.
The Union also pledged to prepare itself to the negative Brexit scenario to be able to handle the situation “if the negotiations were to fail.”
On June 23, 2016, Britain voted to leave the EU in a referendum, with 52 percent voting to leave the EU. Theresa May, who was appointed prime minister right after the country voted in favour of Brexit, triggered Article 50 on March 29, 2017, formally beginning the process of the UK leaving the European Union.
In a mark of how last year’s Brexit vote has called into question the unity of the United Kingdom itself, leaders will also offer Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny a pledge that if Northern Ireland, which voted against Brexit, ever unites with his country, it will automatically be in the EU.
“We are remarkably united,” one national leader who will be at the table told Reuters. “But then it’s always easy to be united on what you want before you start negotiating.”
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel warned against falling into a “trap” where Britain divided the bloc to its advantage.
Among possible differences, the priorities of poor, eastern states are to secure residency rights for their many workers in Britain and British money for the EU budget; Germany and others set store by a smooth transition to a new free trade agreement.
Unwonted unity has been forged by the shock of Brexit; it breaks a taboo and raises fears of further break-up at the hands of nationalists like French far-right leader Marine Le Pen. She will contest her country’s presidential election run-off on May 7, though few expect her to beat centrist Emmanuel Macron.
The EU sees it as vital that Britain not be seen to profit from Brexit to dissuade others from following suit.
However, some officials are also voicing concern that the process of weaving maximalist demands into the negotiating text could risk souring the atmosphere with May, who expects to start talks shortly after the UK election she has called for June 8.
Merkel, facing her own election in September, warned Britain last week against lingering “illusions” of how much access it can get to EU markets. And some diplomats fear the tone of EU demands sounds too aggressive and may create a popular backlash in Britain that might make it hard for May to strike a deal.
“These are legally solid arguments,” one said, noting for example a demand Britain not only lose the EMA and EBA but also pay the moving costs. “But we don’t want to sound too punitive.”
The European Parliament’s priority is to defend the rights of the three million EU citizens living in the United Kingdom, the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani on Saturday said at the summit in Brussels.
It is crucial for us to defend the rights of European citizens working and studying in the UK. We want them to have the same rights after Brexit, Tajani underlined and added that the European Parliament will also defend the rights of the one million British people living in EU countries.
The president of the European Parliament stressed that without an agreement on the rights of European citizens, “we cannot vote on the agreement” for exiting the EU.
He explained that the EU is not against Britain, it is them that decided to leave. The clearest feature of the negotiation, he said, is that the 27 member states of the EU are united as well as the European institutions.