EU Lawmakers Seek to Draw Red Line Over Sequence of Brexit Talks

  • EU Parliament resolution seeks to clinch withdrawal deal first
  • U.K.’s May wants exit, future relationship discussed together

European Union lawmakers will seek to confine initial Brexit negotiations to details of the U.K.’s withdrawal agreement from the bloc, and only once that’s been agreed allow talks to include Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

The European Parliament will also seek to restrict any transitional agreement to three years, according to a draft resolution, which is expected to be voted on next week. The non-binding paper conflicts with Prime Minister Theresa May’s intention to conduct talks on a new partnership alongside the terms of exit.

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On Wednesday, May formally triggered the start of the two-year negotiation process that will culminate with the U.K.’s departure from the EU. While the Parliament won’t sit at the table during the negotiations, the assembly has veto power over any accord.

“Negotiations are to concern the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal” and talks on transitional arrangements should only start once “substantial progress” was made toward an exit agreement, according to a draft of the resolution obtained by Bloomberg.

‘Orderly Withdrawal’

In a letter May submitted to EU President Donald Tusk, she called for Britain’s future partnership to be decided alongside the terms of exit, while Tusk insisted the first phase of negotiations must focus only on “key arrangements for an orderly withdrawal.”

“Our goal is clear: to minimize the costs for the EU citizens, businesses and member states,” Tusk said in a press conference in Brussels. “We will do everything in our power -- and we have all the tools -- to achieve this goal.”

The parliament resolution also says the U.K. can’t negotiate trade agreements with third countries while it remains an EU member, and “warns” that any bilateral arrangement between Britain and one or more of the remaining member states would violate the bloc’s laws.

— With assistance by Jonathan Stearns

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