European Parliament draws tough Brexit 'red lines'

British Prime Minister Theresa May greeting EU President Donald Tusk outside Downing Street yesterday. The EU has rejected Mrs May's call for talks on terms of the divorce and a future trade deal to be held in parallel during the two years of negotia
British Prime Minister Theresa May greeting EU President Donald Tusk outside Downing Street yesterday. The EU has rejected Mrs May's call for talks on terms of the divorce and a future trade deal to be held in parallel during the two years of negotiations.PHOTO: REUTERS

STRASBOURG (France) • The European Parliament has overwhelmingly adopted tough "red lines" for negotiations over a Brexit deal, on which European Union lawmakers will have the final say in two years' time.

The Parliament largely followed EU President Donald Tusk's draft guidelines issued last week after British Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered the historic Brexit process.

But they omitted any mention of the flashpoint issue of Gibraltar, unlike Mr Tusk's guidelines, which said Spain should have the final say over whether any eventual trade deal applies to the British outcrop.

The Strasbourg-based Parliament is the first EU institution to formalise its stance on the Brexit talks, passing the resolution by 516 votes for, 133 against and 50 abstentions.

"You will set the tone for Britain," the bloc's Brexit negotiator, Mr Michel Barnier, told Members of European Parliament (MEPs) just before the vote.

LAYING DOWN THE RULES

You will set the tone for Britain.

MR MICHEL BARNIER, the bloc's Brexit negotiator, to MEPs on setting the terms for the divorce.

The text insists that Britain must first make "substantial progress" on divorce terms - the rights of three million EU citizens living in Britain, the exit Bill and the fate of the border in Northern Ireland - before striking a trade deal with the union.

It says that MEPs are prepared to accept a transitional deal to ease the effect of Britain's exit from the EU's single market in 2019, but that it should be limited to three years.

The EU has rejected Mrs May's call in her letter for talks on the terms of the divorce and on a future trade deal to be held in parallel during the two years of negotiations ahead of Britain's exit.

The remaining 27 EU countries will rubber-stamp Mr Tusk's guidelines at a summit on April 29, paving the way for Mr Barnier to begin formal negotiations with Britain at the end of next month.

Mr Barnier wants a draft deal by October next year so that national leaders will have time to approve it before a ratification by the European Parliament, most likely in early 2019.

Mr Tusk met British Mrs May in London yesterday, his office announced, but gave no reason for it, nor the details of what he discussed with her.

An EU source said separately that the visit forms part of the regular contacts Mr Tusk and Mrs May agreed last week should take place during the negotiation process.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2017, with the headline 'European Parliament draws tough Brexit 'red lines''. Print Edition | Subscribe