EU offers pre-Brexit trade talks, tough on transition

The French president had a conversation with the prime minister on Thursday, delivering the same message made by German chancellor Angela Merkel and the European council president, Donald Tusk, that terms of the country's withdrawal from EU can not occur at the same time as trade talks.

The European Union's approach to talks which will shape its future relationship with the United Kingdom is set to be laid out by European Council president Donald Tusk.

She thinks doing all this in two years is hard but manageable, but the European Union says its just way too much to do in a short period.

But he said: "The EU27 does not and will not pursue a punitive approach".

Brexit Secretary David Davis said the Great Repeal Bill would allow the UK Parliament and Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland administrations to scrap, amend and improve laws.

The guidelines, which will be debated by the 27 other European Union leaders at a summit on 29 April, also said the economic and political bloc was open to a "transitional" deal with the United Kingdom after Brexit.

The German Chancellor, hours after May triggered Article 50 on Wednesday, had said that Britain could negotiate its future relationship with the European Union only after it liberates itself from its existing European Union commitments.

Britain formally triggered the Brexit process on Wednesday.

But she also reiterated her warning that failure to reach a trade deal would hamper security ties.

European officials suggested enough progress could be made on the divorce arrangements by the end of the year to begin trade talks, although EU leaders will have the final say.

Also up for discussion is the amount owed under a Brexit divorce bill, which has been put at £52 billion (US$64.8 billion) owed by Britain.

The draft guidelines, seen by Reuters after European Council President Tusk distributed them to the 27 other governments in the bloc on Friday, may be somewhat revised over the next month before being endorsed by the 27 leaders at a summit on April 29.

"These are draft guidelines and we look forward to beginning negotiations once they have been formally agreed by the 27 member states", a government spokesperson said. It will be sent to the 27 remaining member states for approval.

Mr Tusk was addressing a joint news conference with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat at Castille, in which he presented the draft Brexit negotiating guidelines.

Divorce has to come first, he said, and he warned that the negotiations could be "confrontational".

This includes dealing with Britain's existing commitments to the European Union; providing clarity and legal certainty to European Union citizens, businesses and other stakeholders; and "creative and flexible" solutions to avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Tusk said the goal is essentially damage control.

A majority of Britons voted to leave the European Union at a referendum in June.

It has been speculated that exit negotiations will continue for around two years. "It doesn't work like that - you can not use, or abuse, I should say, the security of citizens to have a good deal on something else", he said.

  • Leroy Wright