EU Council and France join Germany and EU leaders in rejecting Tory Brexit timetable

EU Council and French President say ‘No’ to Tory demand of fast-tracked trade talks

THERESA MAY’S BREXIT timetable has suffered another immediate blow as the European Council and the President of France joined European leaders in rejecting her calls for immediate talks on the UK’s trade relationship with Europe.

The draft guidelines from EU Council President Donald Tusk to the 27 EU nation state leaders rejected Tory calls for trade talks “alongside” discussion of divorce terms. 

The 26 point document stated, in relation to discussion of an exit bill and EU citizens rights, that: “The European Council will monitor progress closely and determine when sufficient progress has been achieved to allow negotiations to proceed to the next phase.”

The documents adds that “an overall understanding on the framework for the future relationship could be identified during a second phase of the negotiations under Article 50”. 

“The European Council will monitor progress closely and determine when sufficient progress has been achieved to allow negotiations to proceed to the next phase.” EU Council guidelines

Theresa May’s article 50 letter beginning the exit process had said that: “We therefore believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the European Union.”

However, the Tory Government will now face the dilemma of either accepting the general timetable set out by European leaders or risking an early confrontation long before any of the main issues for negotiation even begin. Any confrontation - with the risky prospect of walking away from the talks entirely - would place further pressure on the tight timescale for a Brexit deal, which the European Commission wants completed by October 2018 at the latest. 

French President François Hollande reiterated this position in a phone call to the Tory Prime Minister. In a statement released on the conversation, the presidency stated: “First we must begin discussions on the modalities of the withdrawal, especially on the rights of citizens and the obligations arising from the commitments that the United Kingdom has made.

Read more - Tory Brexit hopes rejected by Germany and European Parliament leaders 

“On the basis of progress made, we could then open discussions on the framework of the future relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday 29 March that the 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”.

European Parliament leaders also rejected May’s call for talks on trade “alongside” the divorce proceedings. How quickly progress is made towards a second round of negotiations will depend on whether agreement can be reached on an exit bill and the rights of EU citizens. 

The guidelines from the EU Council will be debated in late April, and if passed will become the framework for European Commission negotiators to enter into talks with the Tory Government.

Picture courtesy of Kancelaria Premiera

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