EU lead­ers unite, vow to deal with UK PM Theresa May ‘firmly’

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - WORLD -

:Euro­pean Union lead­ers vowed on Sat­ur­day to stand shoul­der-to-shoul­der be­hind their ne­go­ti­at­ing team dur­ing the di­vorce pro­ceed­ings with Bri­tain and warned that de­mands from Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May will be dealt with “firmly.”

The 27 EU lead­ers in Brus­sels fi­nalised the cor­ner­stones of their ne­go­ti­at­ing stance within four min­utes of start­ing a short smooth sum­mit, a month after the Bri­tish leader trig­gered two years of exit talks on March 29.

The ne­go­ti­a­tions them­selves are to open shortly after Bri­tain holds an early elec­tion on

June 8.

“We now have unan­i­mous sup­port from all the 27 mem­ber states and the EU in­sti­tu­tions, giv­ing us a strong po­lit­i­cal man­date for these ne­go­ti­a­tions” un­der chief ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier, EU Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk said.

Tusk said there can’t be any dis­cus­sions on the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship between the EU and Bri­tain un­til there has been ma­jor head­way on key is­sues.

“We must first achieve suf­fi­cient progress on cit­i­zens’ rights, fi­nances and the bor­der is­sue in Ire­land. It is too early to spec­u­late on when this might hap­pen,” Tusk said on Sat­ur­day.

He said the 27 lead­ers would unan­i­mously have to say there was “suf­fi­cient progress” to al­low the talks to go to the next phase.

That would give any EU coun­try with a dis­pute with Bri­tain, like Spain over Gi­bral­tar, ma­jor in­flu­ence over the timetable of the talks.

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