Britain will Thursday begin the messy task of disentangling itself from EU laws, as the first signs of rancor between London and Brussels emerged at the start of their two-year divorce proceedings.
As some of the EU’s top leaders gathered to flesh out their strategy for the hard talks ahead, Britain was to publish its plan to extricate itself from four decades of European regulation.
European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker urged the remaining 27 EU nations to pull together as the bloc reels from the blow of one of its biggest members becoming the first ever state to announce its withdrawal from the 60-year-old union.
The first signs of discord were already emerging as a row developed over what was perceived as a veiled threat by London that cooperation over EU security would be endangered if there was no deal.
The European Parliament’s chief negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt hit back immediately saying that “citizens’ security was far too serious a subject” to be held hostage to the negotiations.
And the path ahead is strewn with obstacles, with the matter of three million EU citizens living in Britain and one million British people within the bloc’s nations top of leaders’ agenda.
Also looming large over negotiations is the so-called “exit bill” Britain will have to pay, estimated to be as much as 60 billion euros ($64 billion, £52 billion).
But before these talks can even get under way, MPs will begin the task of amending or scrapping EU regulation as it is brought into British law.
Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament on Wednesday that this was important “so that on the day we leave everybody knows those rules still apply and everybody knows where they stand”.
Meanwhile Juncker will meet in Malta with EU President Donald Tusk, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.