The EU has unveiled its plans for negotiating the big Brexit, after the UK formally filed for a divorce.
They show the bloc is ready to talk to Britain about a free trade deal, before both sides agree final terms of the split.
But it would be part of a phased approach, dependent on London showing “sufficient progress” in a first round of talks focused on issues including the payment of tens of billions of euros and giving residency rights to some three million EU citizens in Britain.
The “document”:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/31/full-eus-draft-guidelines-brexit-negotiations/ is also understood to set tough conditions for any transition period, insisting Britain must accept many EU rules after any such partial withdrawal.
It also spells out EU resistance to Britain scrapping swathes of tax, environmental and labour laws – if it wants to have an eventual free trade pact.
EU27 does not, will not pursue punitive approach. Brexit in itself is already punitive enough.— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) 31 March 2017
European Council President Donald Tusk said the bloc’s duty is to limit the damage – minimising uncertainty for citizens, businesses and member states.
“Brexit in itself is already punitive enough, after more than 40 years of being united we owe to each other to do everything we can to make this divorce as smooth as possible,” he said at a news conference in Malta.
But no-one doubts the difficulties ahead, with Maltese Prime Minister adding that “it will be a tough negotiation, but it will not be a war.”
Joseph Muscat also said Northern Ireland would get “serious and special” consideration.
#Brexit draft guidelines coordination meeting with
eucopresident</a>. It will be tough but fair negotiations -JM <a href="https://t.co/re5ullmn5J">pic.twitter.com/re5ullmn5J</a></p>— Joseph Muscat (JosephMuscat_JM) 31 March 2017
The guidelines will be a framework for the talks led by the EU and British negotiators and are due to be endorsed by the 27 remaining member states at a summit in late April.
The British government, which had called for simultaneous talks on its exit and future trade, says the draft guidelines represent a constructive approach.