Schulz Tells U.K. to Get on With Brexit and Expect Trade-Offs

  • European Parliament President Martin Schulz speaks in London
  • Schulz says there will be no à la carte menu for Britain

European Parliament President Martin Schulz urged Britain start the process for quitting the EU “as soon as possible,” saying delay risks making it harder to reach an agreement.  

“It is understandable that such a complex task as the triggering of Article 50 is not a mere formality and requires detailed preparations which could only start after the referendum result,” Schulz said in a speech in London on Friday, referring to the process that will start two years of negotiations to leave the bloc. “It is also conceivable that the longer the United Kingdom waits to take this step, the more entrenched the respective positions risk becoming.”

Schulz held talks with Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday as he began a two-day visit to Britain. May has limited her comments to saying she won’t trigger formal Brexit talks this year, while Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said this week that the government is leaning toward doing so in the early part of 2017.

Britain should be out of the EU by 2019 to avoid any overlap with European Parliament elections, Schulz said. He insisted that Britain cannot impose curbs on free movement from the EU, as the U.K. government has pledged, while enjoying the full benefits of the single market. 

“I’m convinced that all actors around the table want to make the best of this unfortunate hand of cards,” he said. “But let me say this again clearly –- the best possible deal with the EU is membership of the EU. Any other arrangement necessarily entails trade-offs. Perhaps it is easier to convey what I am trying to say in culinary terms: there will be no a la carte menu.”

The rest of Europe is “looking on with concern” at the increase in “xenophobic violence and hate” since the June Brexit vote, Schulz said. “The only correct attitude towards such violence is zero tolerance and this is the signal expected from the authorities in all member states,” he said.

— With assistance by Alex Morales

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