Italian PM Renzi warns UK over EU rights

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

It will be “im­pos­si­ble” for Brexit talks to re­sult in a deal that gives Bri­tons more rights than oth­ers out­side the EU, Italy’s PM has said.

Mat­teo Renzi warned that leav­ing the EU would be a “very dif­fi­cult process” - but the prob­lems could be solved only af­ter the UK be­gan the exit pro­ce­dure.

He said the Brexit vote had been “a bad de­ci­sion” but had to be re­spected.

Mean­while a Ger­man busi­ness leader said a so-called “hard” Brexit, rather than a “fudge”, was the only op­tion.

Fol­low­ing the UK’s vote to leave the EU in June’s ref­er­en­dum, attention has fo­cused on the govern­ment’s likely de­mands in Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Mr Renzi said he had been shocked and sad­dened by the ref­er­en­dum re­sult, but re­peated Mrs May’s vow that “Brexit is Brexit”, say­ing democ­racy had to be re­spected. Asked about whether there could be “flex­i­bil­ity” over EU rules on free­dom of move­ment and ac­cess to the sin­gle­mar­ket, he said “I think this is a very in­ter­est­ing de­bate, be­cause this de­bate will be a de­bate about the con­cept of rules in the EU.”

But he said that de­bate could only be­gin once the UK had trig­gered ar­ti­cle 50 - the of­fi­cial pro­ce­dure for it to start leav­ing the EU - and he warned: “It will be im­pos­si­ble to give to Bri­tish peo­ple more rights than other peo­ple out­side the EU.”

“The peo­ple of the UK de­cided the way for the future,” Mr Renzi said. “Now the sit­u­a­tion is that we can - and we have to - build the best al­liance between the UK and the EU for the future be­cause we will be the best friends for the next years.

“And at the same time I think this de­ci­sion could push Euro­pean lead­ers to in­vest in a new way for Europe.”

Mr Renzi said Brexit dis­cus­sions would be han­dled by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion - not in­di­vid­ual lead­ers or coun­tries.

How­ever, he added that he was ready to work with Mrs May “to sup­port this very dif­fi­cult process”.

He said ques­tions over the UK’s de­par­ture from the EU need to be solved “as soon as pos­si­ble”.

Mr Renzi also blamed Brexit on David Cameron, say­ing the for­mer UK PM had tried to solve in­ter­nal prob­lems within the Con­ser­va­tives by call­ing the EU ref­er­en­dum.

The Italian prime minister, who has called his own ref­er­en­dum in Italy on whether to re­struc­ture the coun­try’s par­lia­men­tary sys­tem, said: “When David Cameron de­cided to use a ref­er­en­dum to solve some in­ter­nal prob­lems of the Con­ser­va­tive Party, this was the prob­lem. We can­not use for­eign af­fairs to solve in­ter­nal prob­lems.”

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