France warns UK pre­mier of tough time ahead in Brexit talks

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

BRUS­SELS (AP): FRANCE WARNED Bri­tain at the start of a Euro­pean Union (EU) sum­mit yes­ter­day that it would face a tough, un­yield­ing op­po­nent if it sought too many con­ces­sions dur­ing its ne­go­ti­a­tions to leave the 28-na­tion EU.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, who was at­tend­ing her first EU sum­mit as leader, was ex­pected to brief her Euro­pean coun­ter­parts on the way ahead for Bri­tain’s exit from the trade bloc. Many un­cer­tain­ties about the di­vorce re­main be­cause Bri­tain has yet to trig­ger the two-year ne­go­ti­a­tions for ‘Brexit’ – and is un­likely to do so un­til the end of March.

“It’s in the in­ter­ests of the United King­dom (UK) and the EU that we con­tinue to work closely to­gether, in­clud­ing at this sum­mit,” May said.

French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande im­me­di­ately in­sisted that the EU would not sur­ren­der the bloc’s core val­ues just to keep Bri­tain close as a fu­ture ally.

“I have said so very firmly: Mrs Theresa May wants a hard Brexit? The ne­go­ti­a­tions will be hard,” Hol­land said.

Bri­tain’s June 23 break-up ref­er­en­dum has forced the 27 other na­tions to plot their fu­ture with­out a ma­jor but of­ten re­cal­ci­trant mem­ber state. Euro­pean lead­ers have grum­bled that Bri­tain’s tar­di­ness in start­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions slow down their own plan­ning for the next few years.

AWAIT­ING NO­TI­FI­CA­TION

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel said the other lead­ers would un­der­score the ur­gency and would “make clear again: We are wait­ing for the no­ti­fi­ca­tion from Bri­tain”.

The 27 lead­ers al­ready had their first sum­mit with­out Bri­tain in Bratislava last month. May told the lead­ers yes­ter­day they had to re­alise that even if they all agreed on is­sues, they should not ex­pect Bri­tain to au­to­mat­i­cally jump on board at of­fi­cial sum­mits of 28.

Once May ac­ti­vates the exit clause – Ar­ti­cle 50 in the EU’s gov­ern­ing Lis­bon Treaty – ne­go­ti­a­tions on the terms of Bri­tain’s de­par­ture would run for two years. The time frame could be ex­tended, but only if the 27 re­main­ing mem­ber states agree unan­i­mously.

The Brexit ref­er­en­dum to leave the EU was a mile­stone in the his­tory of the bloc, and the dis­en­tan­gle­ment is ex­pected to be long, dif­fi­cult and con­fronta­tional.

Still, EU Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk, who chairs the sum­mit, as­sured the Bri­tish leader that she would not get too hos­tile a re­cep­tion.

Tusk said that some com­pared it to “en­ter­ing the lion’s den. It’s not true. It’s more like a nest of doves. She’ll be ab­so­lutely safe with us. And I hope that she will also re­alise that the Euro­pean Union is sim­ply the best com­pany in the world.”

May said Bri­tain would con­tinue to be a re­spon­si­ble mem­ber right up to the day it leaves the EU.

“I’m here with a very clear mes­sage. The UK is leav­ing the EU, but we will con­tinue to play a full role un­til we leave.”

Like Hol­lande, Tusk vowed last week not to com­pro­mise on the bloc’s prin­ci­ples in ne­go­ti­at­ing Bri­tain’s de­par­ture and warned that Lon­don is head­ing for a hard exit.

He in­sisted that Bri­tain could not hope to both stay in Eu­rope’s sin­gle mar­ket of seam­less busi­ness and re­strict the move­ment of EU mi­grants, say­ing there would be no com­pro­mises.

May has ap­peared to sig­nal that her govern­ment would pri­ori­tise con­trols on im­mi­gra­tion over ac­cess to the Euro­pean sin­gle mar­ket, an ap­proach in­for­mally called a “hard Brexit”.

EU Par­lia­ment Pres­i­dent Mar­tin Schulz said yes­ter­day that the bloc’s fun­da­men­tal free­doms “are in­sep­a­ra­ble”.

“I refuse to imag­ine a Eu­rope where lor­ries and hedge funds are free to cross bor­ders, but cit­i­zens are not,” Schulz said.

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