EU's Brexit chief says UK 'must settle accounts'

2017-03-22 22:00
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Brussels - Britain must reach a deal on what it owes the EU and on the fate of European citizens post-Brexit before talks can start on a future trade deal, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said on Wednesday.

Frenchman Barnier's comments were the first major statement of intent from Brussels since Britain announced on Monday that it will trigger the two-year divorce process on March 29.

He set out what he said were the key areas including the exit bill, the rights of 4.5 million EU nationals living in Britain and vice versa and what will happen to the border in Northern Ireland.

"When a country leaves the union there is no punishment...there is no price to pay to leave. But we must settle the accounts, no more, no less," said Barnier, a former European Commissioner and French minister.

"We will not ask the British to pay a single euro for something they have not agreed to as a member," he told an EU regional institution.

Barnier said Britain had outstanding obligations for regional funding, development funds and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker's investment plan, which together total obligations for the whole EU of more than €600bn.

Talks on a future trade deal to replace Britain's membership of the European single market cannot start until the terms of Britain's exit are all settled, Barnier added.

This would take "several months certainly", Barnier added.

London has argued that the two paths can be negotiated in parallel.

"The quicker we agree on the principles of an orderly withdrawal the sooner we can prepare these future relations," Barnier said.

"Conversely, if we do not end these uncertainties and push them to the end of negotiations, we will be headed for failure."


Read more on:    belgium  |  uk  |  brexit

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