27 March, 2017
"When a country leaves the union, there is no punishment".
The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator outlined EU priorities and conditions in a speech at the Committee of the Regions in the European Parliament on March 22.Michel Barnier said the EU was unwilling that talks should extend past the March 2019 deadline, and to meet that goal, the EU and the United Kingdom had to negotiate issues in the right order.Most important was clarifying the position of Britons in the EU and EU citizens living in the United Kingdom, he said."Guaranteeing their rights as European citizens, in the long term, will be our absolute priority from the very start of the negotiations".
Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, announced that he would call a summit on the last Saturday in April to allow the EU's 27 remaining members to agree on Brexit guidelines, a broad-brush outline of the political principles that will guide them through the next two years of negotiations.
"Our main priority for the negotiations must be to create as much certainty and clarity as possible for all citizens, companies and member states that will be negatively affected by Brexit, as well as our important partners and friends around the world like Japan", he said.
The EU's chief negotiator suggested that transitional arrangements may be needed if a final deal isn't reached within the two years set out by the Article 50 process.
The Prime Minister today said the letter triggering Britain's formal withdrawal from the bloc will be "one of the most important documents in our country's recent history".
Tusk has promised to send European Union diplomats the draft Brexit guidelines within 48 hours of receiving May's article 50 notice.
The EU's stance is likely to cause some friction with Number 10 and United Kingdom officials who have consistently argued against providing a detailed "running commentary" on the upcoming talks for fear of revealing Britain's negotiating hand.
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Executives from easyJet along with the British Airways owner IAG, Ryanair and the Tui Group met the EU's Brexit taskforce last week and were reminded that to continue to operate on routes across the continent they must have a significant base on European Union territory and that a majority of their capital shares must be EU-owned, which could lead to a significant loss of jobs in the UK.
Mr Tusk said his priority was making sure the "divorce" was the "least painful" for the EU.
Barnier has previously said he would like the Brexit negotiations to be done and dusted within 18 months.
"Our watchword will be citizens first", he said.
Directly addressing suggestions in the UK that no deal would be better than a bad deal, he issued a warning of the "serious consequences" for Britain leaving without agreement: "the reintroduction of binding customs controls, which will inevitably slow down trade and lead to queues of trucks at Dover; serious disruption to air traffic; an overnight suspension in the movement of nuclear materials to the UK", Barnier said.
Time will now be short for Britain to negotiate the terms of its departure and a future trade deal by the deadline of March 2019.
He said a transition agreement, that would regulate the period between the divorce and the new, full trade agreement, could be necessary, but such a transition period would have to be limited in time.