European Union sets out 'phased' Brexit strategy

He added: "The Brexit negotiations with the United Kingdom that the European Union will lead for us won't be easy - some people know the saying that. things will get hard before they get easier again - that applies to these talks".

But that leaves only 10 months before October 2018 when Barnier says the talks must wrap up to give time for the European Parliament and member states to approve what the negotiators come up with.

The head of the rotating European Union presidency, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, insisted the negotiations "will not be a war".

If Britain remains part of the European Union single market for a time after Brexit, it would also have to respect all "four freedoms", the document says, which would mean accepting free immigration from the continent. "The EU 27 does not and will not pursue a punitive approach". But once there is a tentative consensus between the two sides on major topics - the treatment of citizens in each other's nations, billions in budget commitments, legal clarity for companies working in Britain and a solution for Ireland's border with the United Kingdom - the European Union says it would be willing to look ahead.

"Starting parallel talks will not happen", he said.

Berenberg Bank, one of the oldest investment banks in the world, said in its latest note to clients said that the European Union will, without a doubt, have the upper hand in Brexit talks.

Tusk also ruled out the suggestion that there was an inherent threat in British Prime Minister Theresa May's departure letter, which some felt hinted at a link between sharing security information and getting a good deal.

In December, the leaders agreed: "In the future, we hope to have the United Kingdom as a close partner of the European Union".

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in Brussels as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ministers met US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, said London was committed to European security and that it was "not some bargaining chip" in the Brexit talks.

The Union's opening gambit in what Tusk said would at times be a "confrontational" negotiation with May's government also rammed home Brussels' insistence that while it was open to letting Britain retain some rights in the EU during a transition after 2019, it would do so only on its own terms.

As EU leaders squared up for tough negotiations, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday rebuffed May's call for exit talks to run alongside negotiations on future ties between the EU and Britain.

In a news conference in Malta on Friday, Mr Tusk made clear that "starting parallel talks on all issues at the same time as suggested by some in the United Kingdom will not happen".

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.

And when it comes to the U.K.'s land border in Ireland, which is key to the Northern Ireland peace process, Tusk's draft guideline says that "flexible and imaginative solutions will be required".

Tusk, however, said he was sure the comments, which caught headlines, had been misinterpreted.

Donald Tusk, who chairs the European Council, will send leaders of the other 27 member states his proposed negotiating guidelines for Brexit talks before presenting the main principles in Malta two days after British Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered the two-year withdrawal process.

Ukip leader Paul Nuttall said that Brussels' wish to "play hardball with the reciprocal rights of individual citizens" was not in the interest of member states, and that as Brexit neared they would see the EU's "rigid approach", not the United Kingdom, as the main problem.

The official said that "even with the best of efforts, it will not be possible to negotiate all those details" in two years.

  • Leroy Wright