The European Union demanded that Britain make “sufficient progress” on its divorce before talks on a trade deal can start as it laid out its tough Brexit negotiating plans Friday.
EU president Donald Tusk ruled out an immediate start to parallel talks, as demanded by British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday in her letter triggering the historic two-year Brexit process.
Tusk’s draft negotiating guidelines add that the other 27 countries are ready for a transitional deal after Britain’s exit in 2019, but that any such arrangement must be under strict EU rules.
Former Polish premier Tusk said it was his “first divorce and I hope the last one”, adding that while he hoped it would not be confrontational the EU would stick to its principles during the talks.
“The EU 27 does not and will not pursue a punitive approach. Brexit itself is already punitive enough,” he told a news conference in the Maltese capital Valletta as he revealed his plans.
The EU is keen to stress its unity as it faces the wrenching departure of one of its biggest members, the first time a country has left the bloc in its 60-year history.
Tusk’s guidelines will now be sent out to the leaders of the 27 remaining EU countries, which will suggest changes ahead of a special summit in Brussels to approve the plans on April 29.
Germany and France had already set out a united and uncompromising stance against May’s demands.
“Starting parallel talks on all issues at the same time as suggested by some in the UK will not happen,” Tusk said.
“Once and only once we have achieved sufficient progress on the withdrawal can we discuss the framework for our future relationship.”
The guidelines say that the EU called for a “phased approach” that prioritizes an orderly withdrawal that reduces the disruption caused by Britain’s departure in March 2019.
The fate of three million EU citizens living in Britain and one million British people within the bloc’s 27 other nations is at the top of leaders’ agenda.