June 16, 2017 - 21:11 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The UK government has agreed to the EU’s demand to start Brexit negotiations with the divorce settlement before moving on to trade issues, two EU diplomats told POLITICO.
A key stipulation from the EU side has been that the divorce agreement must be largely settled before the talks can move on to any future relationship between the bloc and its soon-to-be-departing member. A spokesperson for the UK’s Brexit department said it expected both phases of the negotiations “to be agreed alongside each other,” but did not deny that the talks would focus initially on divorce issues, including agreeing the UK’s financial obligations.
POLITICO revealed on Thursday, June 15 that the Brexit talks would get underway Monday as planned despite the start date being thrown into doubt by the inconclusive result of the UK’s general election. Prime Minister Theresa May did not receive an overall majority and is in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party over a deal to prop up her government. The queen’s speech, which lays out the government’s program, has been delayed until Wednesday.
The Commission’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has made clear that he wants to agree on divorce terms before moving on to discussing the UK’s future relationship with the bloc at a later stage in the negotiations. Barnier’s mandate, issued by EU governments, currently includes negotiating the EU’s priorities for an exit deal only, so his room for maneuver is limited.
“It is indeed our understanding that the agenda of the first negotiation round consists of issues related to the first phase of negotiations, which means citizens, money, Northern Ireland and some other exit-related questions,” one diplomat said. “So this would imply that the UK understands the sequencing.”
The talks, which are to begin in Brussels on Monday June 19, “will focus on issues related to citizens’ rights, the financial settlement, the Northern Irish border and other separation issues, as part of the sequenced approach to the talks,” the European Commission said in a press release Friday, adding that “both sides will also discuss the structure of the negotiations and the issues that need to be addressed over the coming months.”
The Brexit department spokesperson said: “Our view is that withdrawal agreement and terms of the future relationship must be agreed alongside each other. We are clear this is what is set out in Article 50.”
“We believe that the withdrawal process cannot be concluded without the future relationship also being taken into account. As the EU has itself said, ‘nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed,’” they added.
The agenda for the opening day of talks begins at 11 a.m. with an introductory session involving Barnier, the UK’s Brexit Secretary David Davis and officials. It is followed by a working lunch at 12:30 p.m. between Barnier and Davis. The afternoon session consists of working groups and other meetings before a press conference at around 6:30 p.m.