EU states back guidelines for Brexit talks following election
By Brian Reyes and agencies
Leaders of the 27 remaining EU states have approved tough guidelines for chief negotiator Michel Barnier for Brexit talks due to start after the UK’s June 8 general election.
Mr Barnier said he aimed to hold the first round of negotiations with the UK in the week of June 19 and report back to the European Council summit of June 22-23, exactly a year after the referendum vote to quit the EU.
EU leaders meeting in Brussels agreed there must be "sufficient progress" on the status of expatriate citizens, the UK-EU border in Ireland and Britain's payment of a "divorce bill", estimated at up to 100 billion euro (£86 billion) before any talks on a future trade deal.
There was no mention of Gibraltar in the negotiating directives approved yesterday, which focus solely on withdrawal process, not on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
Guidelines adopted by the European Council last month include a clause giving Spain an effective veto over the application to Gibraltar of any future agreement between the UK and the EU.
But Gibraltar will not become an issue of contention until the second phase of the negotiations.
“What we have focused on is Gibraltar’s future, and that is not going to be discussed now,” Alfonso Dastis, Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, told reporters in Brussels.
“As we know, Gibraltar is now going to leave [the EU].”
“If it wants to come back in the future, that will form part of the second phase of the negotiations, to which these negotiating directives [approved yesterday] do not apply.”
At a Brussels press conference, Mr Barnier told reporters the agreement was "a demonstration of determination and confidence" backed not only by all 27 national governments, but also by the European Commission, European Council and European Parliament.
"We are ready and well prepared," Mr Barnier said.
"We have a clear mandate supported by all 27 member states.
"We have a solid resolution of the European Parliament, we have excellent working relations between the EU institutions.”
"We have a negotiating team. All structurals are in place."
A Brexit working group will meet for a few days from today to finalise EU negotiating positions on key topics in the first phase of talks, Mr Barnier added.
"These positions will be sent to the UK," he said.
"I expect this to happen very quickly after the election.”
"In line with our transparency policy, we will publish our position papers and negotiating documents."
Mr Barnier said he hoped to get around the negotiating table with the UK team "as soon as possible" and looked forward to talks taking place in a "positive atmosphere".