Hollande to May: agree Brexit terms first, then we'll talk trade

The Latest: Future of Gibraltar to be set by UK-Spain talks

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, former French minister Michel Barnier, said in a speech last week: "It is not too early to start outlining the contours of our new partnership today, even if it is too early to start negotiating".

May, who officially triggered two years of Brexit negotiations Wednesday, has repeatedly said she wants to guarantee the rights of some 3 million European Union citizens resident in Britain, but that it's contingent on a reciprocal promise by the EU's 27 other governments for more than 1 million Britons resident in their countries.

Tusk ruled out the suggestion that there was an inherent threat in British Prime Minister Theresa May's departure letter Wednesday, which some felt hinted that Britain would end security cooperation with continental Europe unless it gets a good Brexit deal.

Although the issue sounds technical, it could have a crucial bearing on the outcome as Britain is likely to have less leverage in the trade talks if it has already agreed how much it is going to have to pay to leave the EU.

Britain formally triggered the Brexit process on Wednesday.

But behind the bald statements, lies a more nuanced approach acknowledging that numerous issues to which the exit treaty must bring legal clarity can not be resolved without some understanding of how trade and other relations between Britain and the European Union will work in the future.

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.

Once the first phase is cleared, the next phase of negotiations is set to scope out an understanding of a framework for the future UK-EU relationship.




The guidelines were leaked moments before European Council president Donald Tusk was due to launch them at a press conference in Malta.

"The U.K.is now on the other side of the other side of the table", Tusk said, adding that the EU's role is to "minimize the uncertainty" that Brexit has created for businesses and citizens.

The European Union said it is willing to discuss a free trade deal with the United Kingdom but it is only going to finalize it once the country has officially left the bloc.

"We are thinking of moving to Australia", a 45-year-old Spanish nurse from Barcelona, who is married to a Spanish doctor, told AFP.

According to the Commons Library, unravelling European Union law will be "one of the largest legislative projects ever undertaken in the UK".

"I hope that the British government and the European Union will listen to us and ring fence our rights so we are not used to negotiate any other items on the agenda", he said after May announced the start of Brexit.

But in its draft negotiating guidelines for the upcoming withdrawal talks, the Council did not rule out trade talks beginning within the two-year period leading up to Brexit.

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