EU Brexit guide softens on United Kingdom relations

The Brexit vote was only won by a narrow 52-48 margin and Scotland's nationalist government is now calling for a fresh referendum on independence.

"But... I think overall, the message from the guidelines is positive and encouraging for the United Kingdom government, because, as I said, it makes it clear that the 27 stand ready to discuss the future relationship during the two-year timeline".

Some believe that official Brexit talks could begin on April 29 at the next planned summit bringing together the leaders of the 27 remaining European Union member states in Brussels.

Mr Tusk's guidelines appeared to offer a small compromise, saying that some trade talks could eventually be held at the same time, but he insisted on a "phased approach" during the Brexit process.

The draft proposals to be outlined by Mr Tusk are expected to include other crucial details, such as the sequencing of talks, in particular whether separation talks must be concluded before negotiators can move on to discuss Britain's future relationship with the EU.

Trade is a key issue as Britain prepares to leave Europe's single market in order to control migration, but Merkel said the exit deal must come first. Number 10 said it expected "robust positions" to be adopted.

German foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer echoed the message, saying that "we are proud of the clear, unanimous stance of the European Union 27, that they stood their ground that there would be no pre-negotiations".

While the commission will lead Brexit talks with London, the council of member states, of which Mr Tusk is president, has to agree the commission's negotiating mandate.

Tusk warned Prime Minister Theresa May she was not to try to pick off countries separately to negotiate in a divide-and-rule approach and should negotiate "only with the 27 as a unit".

He also insisted that Britain's commitment to European defense and security is "unconditional" and "not some bargaining chip in any negotiations" over Brexit. "It must be a misunderstanding", he said.

May said Wednesday that Britain will probably have to leave European Union police agency Europol after Brexit, but wants to "maintain the degree of co-operation on these matters that we have now".

The closer Britain gets to the 2019 deadline without an FTA, the more likely it is multinational companies will start shifting operations and staff overseas, making an early start very desirable.

Britons previous year voted 52 percent to 48 percent in favour of Brexit after a bitterly divisive campaign. Vincenzo Scarpetta, a senior policy analyst at think tank Open Europe, believes the United Kingdom government will be encouraged by Tusk's statement this morning.

He was speaking as a draft of the EU's Brexit negotiating principles was sent to European leaders.

"Only when this question is dealt with can we - hopefully soon after - begin talking about our future relationship".

The European Council had meant to publish the guidelines on its website straight away, but the BBC understands that two EU member states objected.

The EU guidelines say they are also open to a transitional arrangement after Brexit as a "bridge" to a future deal some years down the line.

"Paradoxically there is also something positive in Brexit".

  • Salvatore Jensen