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European Union offers pre-Brexit trade talks; tough on transition

European Union offers pre-Brexit trade talks; tough on transition

European Union offers pre-Brexit trade talks; tough on transition

Donald Tusk has set out the EU's draft negotiating position, making clear that Britain must start to deal with its divorce from Europe before talks on future trade terms.

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".

Tusk also warned British prime minister Theresa May, who he will meet next month, against trying to use security cooperation as a tool to obtain a better economic deal with the EU.

After forceful lobbying by Irish officials in Brussels, European Council president Donald Tusk's document is expected to reference Brexit challenges for Ireland - which include cross-Border trade and the peace process.

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.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Friday that the "the second step can hopefully happen soon" but appeared to dampen once again British hopes of parallel talks.

By converting the body of European Union law into British legislation, May's government hopes to ease those concerns by offering that "wherever practical, the same rules and laws will apply after exit day".

The EU was open to talks if quick progress is made on key parts of the divorce proceedings - a move that grants some of the wishes of PM May.

"We will take control of our own laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain".

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Tusk's negotiating guidelines of some six or seven pages will set the tone for two years of tough talks to come.

The draft says the EU's overall objective is "to preserve its interests, those of its member states, its citizens and its businesses".

In France's Le Parisien newspaper May underlined the importance of "the closest possible security cooperation" after Britain leaves the EU.

"Only once we have achieved sufficient progress on the withdrawal, can we discuss the framework for our future relationship", Tusk tweeted.

It is understood the guidelines contain explicit references to the Northern Irish peace process and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Speaking at the meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not mention Brexit directly, but said the European Union must guarantee the prosperity and security of its citizens or risk them turning away.

The guidelines also make clear the European Union wants to see a "transitional" deal after Brexit in 2019 and before any trade deal is agreed, but on the condition the United Kingdom continues to accept the bloc's rules.

The European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt told Sky News the warning amounted to a "threat" and was unacceptable.

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