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Quick, painless Brexit talks an illusion: Barnier

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Quick, painless Brexit talks an illusion: Barnier

Michel Barnier - Photo EC

(BRUSSELS) - Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, said Wednesday it was an illusion that Brexit would have no material impact on people's lives or that talks could be concluded quickly and painlessly.

As the EU Commission handed the European Council its negotiating directives for opening the Article 50 negotiations with the UK, M Barnier said the Commission's main priority was the rights of EU citizens.

The recommendation, which translated the guidelines already laid out into negotiating directives, gives details of the EU executive's aims for concluding the first phase of negotiations; notably on citizens' rights, the financial settlement and the new external borders.

On citizens' rights, the four million living in the UK or British citizens living abroad should be able to continue to live their lives as they do today, for the rest of their lives, said M Barnier.

Their rights include access to jobs, education, health care and to have their qualifications recognised.

On the financial settlement, there is no punishment involved, says the Commission, there is no exit tax.

The financial settlement is only about settling the UK's dues. The UK had to honour its obligations as a member of the EU, said M Barnier.

This would reflect the involvement in the various EU programmes and projects to which it had committed itself, and on which many people and organisations rely.

Finally, the Commission stresses that arrangements would need to be found regarding dispute settlement and the governance of the withdrawal agreement.

The negotiating directives reflect the two-phased approach put forward by the leaders of the 27 Member States, says the Commission, and prioritise those matters which it deems necessary to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union.

The Commission's recommendation states clearly that agreement on the principles of the financial settlement must be reached before it is possible to move on to the second phase of the negotiations.

The Commission underlines its belief that the negotiations should not undermine in any way the Good Friday Agreement.

It says solutions should be found to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

M Barnier acknowledged that the talks are a source of concern for many people and also for many organisations.

The Commission's response, he said, would be to be transparent. That is why the Commission was publishing its recommendation for the Council's negotiation directives, he said. He promised it would be "transparent throughout the process."

M Barnier said negotiations would start "as soon as the UK is ready to come to the table." The Commission wanted to remove the ten months of uncertainty that "the UK's decision to leave the European Union has now caused."

Commission draft negotiating directives for Article 50 
negotiations with the UK - Q&A

Text of the recommendation

European Council guidelines

Q&A on Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union

Task Force on Article 50 Negotiations with the United Kingdom (TF50) webpage

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