Post-Brexit trade deal: No talks before UK settles what it owes, says EU

UK Prime Minister Theresa May

European Union governments agreed a common Brexit negotiating plan on Monday and renewed their insistence that they would not open talks on a post-Brexit trade deal until London agrees to settle what it owes the Union.

Ministers from the 27 other EU states met in Brussels to sign off on a common strategy and mandate the EU executive, in the form of chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, to launch talks on their behalf after Britain’s June 8 election. The strategy and mandate were adopted unanimously, officials said.

Barnier said he expected to sit down with British officials for the first time in the week starting Monday, June 19, and to report to EU leaders on the talks during a summit on June 22-23, exactly a year since Britons shocked the Union by voting to leave in a referendum on June 23, 2016.

Several ministers stressed their priorities are to provide legal clarity for EU citizens in Britain before they find themselves living outside the EU in March 2019 and to agree how to calculate what London owes Brussels before departure.

The Union’s leaders agreed last month on a phased structure of talks, under which the free trade agreement which British Prime Minister Theresa May wants with the EU would only be discussed after a first phase of talks makes “significant progress” on issues such as citizens’ rights and the budget.

“It’s clear that in this matter, on the finance issue, if we get stuck then we will not get onto ‘phase two’, what should come afterwards between the European Union and Great Britain,” Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said on arrival.

His Dutch counterpart Bert Koenders told reporters: “It’s very British to know that if you’re part of a club and then you leave you have to settle your accounts.”

Deal or No Deal

Barnier’s British counterpart, Brexit Secretary David Davis, told a weekend newspaper that his threat to walk out without a deal with the EU was serious. Barnier said that was “not my option” and he did not want to think about such an outcome, which EU officials say would create a chaotic legal limbo.

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