Brexit Talks to Prove Difficult, 'Confrontational' - EU Council Chief
European Union leaders say they are determined to preserve their unity and that any Brexit agreement must not encourage other member states to leave the bloc.
With European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker indicating that the EU is likely to seek around £50 billion from Britain to settle existing obligations, prior agreement on the bill would rob Prime Minister Theresa May of a powerful weapon to influence the outcome of trade negotiations.
"Today my task is to propose draft negotiation guidelines to 27 leaders - to the 27, because from Wednesday after triggering Article 50, the United Kingdom is now on other side oft the negotiating table".
European Council President Donald Tusk 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.
He added: "The talks which are about to start will be hard, complex and even confrontational".
"Once, and only once we have achieved sufficient progress on the withdrawal, can we discuss the framework for our future relationship", Tusk said at a joint press conference with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
The day before May's phone conversation with Hollande, Merkel said that negotiations "must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship ... and only when this question is dealt with can we - hopefully soon after - begin talking about our future relationship".
Speaking to reporters in Malta, Mr Tusk said the 27 would proceed in a "spirit of co-operation".
"Starting parallel talks on all issues at the same time as suggested by some in the United Kingdom will not happen", the former Polish premier said.
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"It will then be for elected politicians in this country to make changes in the national interest", the Brexit ministry said. The second will be used for talks over a future trade deal.
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.
France and Germany have led opposition to the parallel talks that Ms May had demanded.
The EU guidelines make clear there can be no talks on the shape of any future relationship at this stage.
A senior EU official says it will take more than two years to hammer out all the details of Britain's departure from the European Union. Brexit in itself is already punitive enough.
The European Council had meant to publish the guidelines on its website straight away, but the BBC understands that two EU member states objected.
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.
Tusk also said the European Union would honour all its commitments, and stressed that Britain would have to as well.
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