Theresa May has triggered Article 50 today to kick off the Brexit process, and the EU's draft response to this momentous occasion has been leaked, with Europe appearing to take a very strong position with few concessions to the UK.
Guy Verhofstadt, who was appointed last year by the European Parliament to lead negotiations, was among the signatories of the draft motion for a resolution to wind up the debate on negotiations with the United Kingdom following its notification that it intends to withdraw from the European Union.
The group states that the UK "must enjoy all the rights and fulfil all the obligations" that come with EU membership until it leaves the union on 30 March, 2019, which is the date Britain will "automatically" exit even if no agreement is reached. It added that the UK "must honour all its legal, financial and budgetary obligations, including commitments under the current multi-annual financial framework, falling due up to and after the date of its withdrawal".
The EU negotiators said any agreement with the UK should address the following issues:
• The legal status of EU citizens living or having lived in the UK and of UK citizens living or having lived in other member states as well as other provisions as to their rights
• The settlement of financial obligations between the UK and the EU
• The Union's external border
• The clarification of the status of the UK's international commitments taken as a member of the EU, given that the Union at 27 will be the legal successor of the Union at 28
• The legal certainty for legal entities, including companies
• The designation of the Court of Justice of the EU as the competent authority for the interpretation and enforcement of the withdrawal agreement
UK out of Single Market and Customs Union
It also states that in its notification of leaving the EU - which has not yet been seen - the UK government has indicated "that its future relationship with the European Union will not include membership of the Single Market nor membership of the Customs Union".
The EU said it regrets this decision, and said "a state leaving the Union cannot enjoy similar benefits as an EU Member State" and therefore it "will not consent to any agreement that would contradict this".
The draft response warns that any bilateral agreement and/or regulatory or supervisory practice that would grant, for example, privileged access to the Single Market for UK based financial institutions "at the expense of the EU’s regulatory framework", or relating to the status of EU citizens in the UK or vice versa, would be in contravention of the various EU Treaties.
The EU politicians said: "Whereas nevertheless a continued membership by the UK of the Single Market, the European Economic Area and, or the Custom Union would have been the optimal solution for both the UK and the EU-27... this is not possible as long as the UK government maintains its objections to the four freedoms and the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, refuses to make a general contribution to the EU budget and wants to conduct its own trade policy."
The EU is "especially concerned by the consequence of the UK's withdrawal from EU on Northern Ireland and its future relations with Ireland" and said it is "crucial to safeguard peace and therefore to preserve the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts".
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