A European Parliament resolution setting out the EU’s battle lines in its Brexit negotiations with the UK has been leaked to the Guardian newspaper. The document points to several areas where the EU and UK government are likely to clash now that Brexit talks have formally begun following Theresa May’s triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to leave the EU yesterday. Contrary to what Ms May has insisted, the EU will not seek a trade deal with the UK until after the terms of its withdrawal from the bloc have been agreed on. Once the UK has officially left the EU in 2019, a transitional trade agreement could be put in place, but this will last no more than three years and be limited in scope.
The ability of the negotiating parties to reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce will hinge on contentious issues such as Britain’s outstanding payments to the current EU budget and other liabilities. That figure has been put at €60 billion by the EU, a number that has been rejected as ‘nonsense’ by one former cabinet minister. Only once this and other matters have been settled will the EU begin Free Trade talks, according to the leaked resolution.
This negotiating line was echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel just hours after Ms May invoked Article 50 yesterday. At a press conference in Berlin, Ms Merkel said, “The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship… and only when this question is dealt with, can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship.”
Similarly, in a phone call with Theresa May, French President François Hollande said, “First we must begin discussions on the modalities of the withdrawal, especially on the rights of citizens and the obligations arising from the commitments that the United Kingdom has made. On the basis of progress made, we could then open discussions on the framework of the future relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union”.
The leaked document also says that there will be no special deal for the City of London allowing companies based there to have preferential access to the single market or customs union. This will come as a blow to London’s financial district and heighten fears that Brexit will make it less attractive to foreign investors.
A special summit to be held in May will set out the guidelines by which the Brexit talks will be conducted.