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Brexit guidelines: no trade talks until progress on divorce

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Brexit guidelines: no trade talks until progress on divorce

Donald Tusk - Photo EU Council

(BRUSSELS) - EU president Donald Tusk presented the European Council's draft negotiating guidelines on the upcoming Brexit negotiations Friday, foreseeing difficult, complex and even confrontational talks ahead.

"Our duty is to minimise the uncertainty and disruption caused by the UK decision to withdraw from the EU for our citizens, businesses and Member States," he said.

A key focus would be to settle the status of the citizens from all over the EU who live, work and study in the UK. Mr tusk stressed the fact that so long as the UK remains an EU member, their rights would be fully protected.

The second priority was to to prevent a legal vacuum for European companies. This stems from the fact that after Brexit EU laws will no longer apply to the UK.

Mr Tusk said the UK would need to "honour all financial commitments and liabilities it has taken as a Member State". He said this was "only fair towards all those people, communities, scientists, farmers and so on to whom we, all the 28, promised and owe this money. The EU, for its part, guarantees to honour its own commitments.

Finally, Mr Tusk underlined the importance of seeking "flexible and creative solutions aiming at avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. "It is of crucial importance to support the peace process in Northern Ireland," he said.

The EU Council has focused on these four issues as forming part of what ti calls the first phase of negotiations.

Only after "sufficient progress" has been achieved on the withdrawal, will the EU discuss a framework for the UK's future relationship wioth the EU. Mr Tusk underlined the fact that there will be no parallel talks on all issues at the same time, as had been wanted by the UK.

However, Mr Tusk was keen to voice the EU's wish to share the UK's desire to establish a close partnership: "strong ties, reaching beyond the economy and including security cooperation, remain in our common interest."

A 'punitive approach' was in neither of the partiues' interest, he said: "Brexit in itself is already punitive enough. After more than forty years of being united, we owe it to each other to do everything we can to make this divorce as smooth as possible.

Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat admitted that the UK was pursuing separate contact with the Member States. However, he also was quite clear about how the Brexit talks would progress: "when it comes to negotiations on Brexit and on future relationship, there is a clear commitment by the 27 to have just one point of contact, and that point of contact is M Barnier," the EU's chief negotiator.

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