EU approach to Brexit talks revealed by European Council president Donald Tusk

As part of a "phased approach", Britain would just have to show "sufficient progress" on its divorce settlement in a first phase of negotiations, then European Union states could release the lock and agree to launch trade talks in a second phase.

The EU leader also emphasized on the importance of supporting the peace process in Northern Ireland, saying that the EU will seek flexible and creative solutions aimed at avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

He added that "the EU-27 does not and will not pursue a punitive approach" because "Brexit in itself is already punitive enough".

"I wish we could and we will establish a good and solid security and defense cooperation also after Brexit. It must be a misunderstanding".

Tusk said he had hurried to present the guidelines swiftly because the negotiations would be conducted under a tight timetable: "The Treaty gives us only two years", he said, indicating that there was not much appetite to extend the period.

"A big mistake that we could make from both sides is to start with launching threats at each other".

It comes after Theresa May triggered Article 50 on Wednesday with a letter calling for withdrawal and trade talks to start at the same time, while sparking anger by linking security co-operation to future trade bargaining.

Businesses big and small are unsure how they will trade across the new EU-U.K. frontier and some three million European Union expatriates in Britain and a million or so British expatriates are unsure of their residence rights.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson also insisted Friday that Britain's commitment to European defense and security is "unconditional" and "not some bargaining chip in any negotiations" over Brexit.

"It is obvious that the United Kingdom is in contact with individual member states, which is not a problem, but I want to make it clear that all 27 member states are committed to negotiating on Brexit through Barnier as a point of contact", Muscat said.

These include the timeframe for wrapping up the EU-U.K. talks, which remains unclear but has been an early sticking point ahead of negotiations.

The status of their citizens living, working and studying in Britain needs to be guaranteed, and negotiations must also prevent a legal vacuum for European Union companies, Tusk said.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister set out her priorities for Brexit talks in a letter which triggered Article 50. The deadline for Brexit to be finalized is in two years - at midnight March 29, 2019.

Mr Davis said the repeal bill would not give the European Court of Justice a "future role" in the interpretation of United Kingdom laws, and United Kingdom courts will not be obliged to consider cases decided by the ECJ after Brexit.

The EU and Britain have two years to negotiate the terms of Brexit.

Speaking during a joint news conference with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in the capital Valletta, Tusk outlined Brussels's guidelines during the withdrawal process of Britain from the bloc.

The European Union will wait until the conditions of the UK's exit from the EU have been agreed before talking about the country's future relationship with the trading bloc, François Hollande told Theresa May.

  • Salvatore Jensen