European Union finance ministers have been discussing Brexit as well as trade and taxes at their regular meeting in Brussels.
The battle lines are being drawn now that the countdown has started for Britain to leave the EU.
The commissioner for the region’s economic and financial affairs, Pierre Moscovici, said they will try to find an orderly way to define a close relationship with the UK: “The EU is ready to negotiate, our teams are prepared and well positioned, Madame May (Prime Minister Theresa May) and her government will discuss and defend the British interest, and we will defend the 27 members’ interests.
He added: “We know that we have principles such as the visibility of the four freedom of the internal market, and we also know that it can not be the same to be a member of the club and to be out of a club.”
The European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters there will be a Brexit summit for 27 members – without Britain – to work out strategy: “I will call a European Council on Saturday 29th of April to adopt the guidelines for the Brexit talks.”
I will call #EUCO on 29/4 to adopt EU27 Brexit Guidelines. Priority must be certainty, clarity for all: citizens, companies & member states.— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) March 21, 2017
He continued: “I personally wish the UK hadn’t chosen to leave the EU. But the majority of British voters decided otherwise. Therefore we must do everything we can to make the process of divorce the least painful for the EU.”
Tusk said the priority would be “to create as much certainty and clarity as possible for all citizens, companies and member states that will be negatively affected by Brexit, as well as our important partners and friends around the world, like Japan”.
Tusk and other EU leaders met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who was visiting Brussels on Tuesday.
Britain has two years from March 29 for the intense political and economic negotiations over leaving, but those talks are not expected to start in earnest until May or June, which will make the timetable very tight.
Many diplomats and officials admit it will probably take longer.