Arguments could make Brexit talks 'impossible'

Tusk's warning comes after May accuses EU politicians of meddling in coming polls

BRUSSELS • Britain's looming negotiations with the European Union on exiting the bloc are already very tough and will become "impossible" if emotions are allowed to run unchecked, said the chairman of EU summits.

Mr Donald Tusk's warning followed comments by British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday that some European politicians and officials were seeking to affect the outcome of Britain's general election on June 8.

"These (Brexit) negotiations are difficult enough as they are. If we start arguing before they even begin, they will become impossible," Mr Tusk said in a statement read out after a meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

"The stakes are too high to let our emotions get out of hand. Because at stake are the daily lives and interests of millions of people on both sides of the Channel," said Mr Tusk, who heads the European Council which groups EU national governments.

He added that discretion, moderation, mutual respect and a maximum of goodwill were required to succeed. Mr Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, will play an important role in the negotiations.

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These (Brexit) negotiations are difficult enough as they are. If we start arguing before they even begin, they will become impossible. The stakes are too high to let our emotions get out of hand. Because at stake are the daily lives and interests of millions of people on both sides of the Channel.

MR DONALD TUSK, European Council president, on Mrs May's comments that some European politicians were seeking to affect the outcome of Britain'spolls.

Earlier, the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said it had no opinion on Mrs May's accusation about meddling. "We are not naive. We know there is an election taking place in the United Kingdom; people get excited whenever (there are) elections," commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news briefing.

Last weekend, a German newspaper gave a damning account of a dinner last week between Mrs May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, reporting that he had told her Brexit could not be a success.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny told a Montreal news conference he regretted the way the remarks had been reported.

"This is not a helpful situation but, be that as it may, it has happened... The issues that concern the European Union, of which we are a member, will not change," he said.

Mr Kenny said he expected Mrs May to "have a very clear and a very strong hand" domestically after the June 8 elections, allowing her to draw up her own mandate for the Brexit negotiations.

Mrs May, whose Conservative Party has a double-digit lead over the main opposition Labour Party in opinion polls, initially dismissed the German report as "Brussels gossip" before making her accusation of EU interference in the elections.

The Brexit negotiations are expected to begin after the elections.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2017, with the headline 'Arguments could make Brexit talks 'impossible''. Print Edition | Subscribe