EU leaders unanimously agree guidelines for Brexit talks

Helen Cahill
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The 27 Remaining Members Of The European Union Meet To Discuss Brexit
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for the Brexit summit (Source: Getty)

The leaders of 27 European Union countries have unanimously agreed guidelines for the EU's negotiating stance in upcoming Brexit talks with the UK.

The negotiations will not start in earnest until after the UK's snap general election on 8 June, but European leaders met at a special summit in Brussels today to agree on the plan of action for when talks begin.

European Council president Donald Tusk first issued the negotiating guidelines for the 27 leaders on 31 March.

Read more: Now Tusk says Brexit talks must start with "people, money and Ireland"

Ahead of the summit today, Tusk urged the 27 EU nations to wave through the guidelines, saying that the EU must present a united front.

"We need to remain united as EU-27," he told reporters. "It is only then that we will be able to conclude the negotiations, which means that our unity is also in the UK's interest."

Even though negotiations between the EU and UK have not started yet, the leaders already disagree on the best way to approach the divorce settlement. The UK government has been pushing for trade talks to take place as soon as possible, but both Tusk and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel have said these must wait until a Brexit deal is in place.

Read more: Merkel doubles down: No parallel Brexit talks on divorce and future

Speaking in the German Bundestag this week, Merkel said Britain will not be able to secure the same rights as EU member states when it leaves the bloc.

"A third state, and that's what Britain will be, cannot and will not have at its disposal the same rights ... as members of the European Union," Merkel said.

"I must say this clearly here because I get the feeling that some people in Britain still have illusions - that would be wasted time."

Paul Drechsler, CBI President, said the case for starting negotiations on trade was "crystal clear", given that the trade between the UK and the EU is worth more than €600bn.

“The first big job for the new government here in the UK will be to provide confidence to business that a strong, long-term relationship can be secured and that economies and societies on both sides of the channel can continue to benefit from economic growth and provide greater opportunities of prosperity for all," he said.

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