EU leaders to reject Theresa May's negotiation timetable
European Council president Donald Tusk will issue draft guidelines on how the EU intends to negotiate with Britain over the next two years
Donald Tusk - credit: Press Association
European Union leaders will today formally respond to Theresa May’s decision to trigger Article 50 - teeing up the first major clash of the Brexit process.
European Council president Donald Tusk will issue draft guidelines on how the EU intends to negotiate with Britain over the next two years.
But he is expected to confirm that the member states do not back Theresa May's bid to negotiate the UK's withdrawal from the EU and its future relations with the bloc at the same time.
Instead, they want to reach agreement on the residency rights of British and EU citizens, plus the size of the divorce bill the UK must pay, before discussing future arrangements.
In her letter triggering Article 50 on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said: "We believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU."
But in an outright rejection of May's approach, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle out inter-linked relationship, and only when this is dealt with can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship."
A spokesman for French president Francois Hollande also delivered a blow to May's proposed timetable yesterday.
He said: "The president indicated that the talks must at first be about the terms of withdrawal, dealing especially with citizens' rights and obligations resulting from the commitments made by the United Kingdom."
Tusk will issue a statement from a summit of EU centre-right leaders in Malta before sending his guidelines to the 27 other member states, with negotiations finally getting underway in a month's time.
A senior EU source told the Daily Telegraph: "It is not just a question of everyone agreeing ‘we’ll fix it’ then move on.
"Political agreement is not enough. The details will have to be sorted before the EU side can move on."
But a Whitehall source said: "We detect some ‘give’, in the sense that if we can reach agreement on the basic principles covering the budget and the citizens’ rights, that would open the way to wider talks."
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Jeremy Corbyn expected to say that a Labour government would seek to join some form of customs union with the EU