The EU does not want to “wall” with London

The president of the european council Donald Tusk (l) speaks to the First british minister Theresa May, during a meeting at 10 Downing street in London, on march 1, 2018 (Photo Frank Augstein. POOL)

The european Union does not want to “build a wall” separating it from the Uk after Brexit, but she insisted it was Wednesday that the economic damage of divorce would be inevitable, tempering the hopes displayed by Theresa May.

A few days after the First british minister, the president of the european Council Donald Tusk has also shot to death Wednesday his cards on the contour of the links that will tie the two parties, after march 2019.

“We don’t want to build a wall” with the United Kingdom, has assured Mr Tusk to the press in Luxembourg, where he presented without the publish its proposal of the “guidelines on the framework of the future relationship” with London.

But “the fact of being outside of the customs union and the single market”, as is the wish of London, “will inevitably result in frictions” and “would unfortunately have negative economic consequences”, it is stressed in the document seen by AFP.

The text, submitted to the leaders of the 27, must still be approved at a summit on 22 and 23 march in Brussels, before becoming the EU’s position in trade negotiations with the United Kingdom.

The EU “will initiate these discussions on the future with an open mind and a positive,” promised Mr. Tusk, but if London does not change its “red lines”, then “only a free trade agreement is possible”.

– Blur on the finance –

This agreement could cover the goods “in all sectors”, with the goal of not having “no tax or quantitative restriction”, offers the former Polish Prime minister, in his statement, also asking for access to british waters to european fishermen.

The services are also mentioned, but without specific reference to the financial sector for which London insists to maintain access to the european market.

It is a deliberate choice not to enter into details, said a source european. But the French minister of Economy, Bruno Le Maire, had felt the day before that the financial services could not “be included in a free trade agreement”.

“Include financial services in a free trade agreement is not only possible but also it is in our mutual interest to do so,” replied Wednesday, his british counterpart, Philip Hammond, hinting at a tug-of-war on the subject.

The text presented on Wednesday by Mr Tusk “is a project,” responded the spokesman Theresa May, hoping that the final version will provide the flexibility necessary for the EU to think in creative and imaginative ways about our future economic partnership”.

This crucial component of dealing with London has not yet started, the discussion has so far concentrated on the preparation of the treaty sealing the Brexit, with heavy files such as bill of divorce, the fate of the expatriates and the future of the border in ireland.

Pressed for months by the EU to clarify its wishes, Theresa May, confirmed Friday in a speech highly anticipated his determination to leave the single market and the customs union.

But she also called for the conclusion of a free trade agreement “the widest possible” with the EU, “covering more areas and with more cooperation than any free trade agreement in the world today.”

-‘Not Mexico’-

The european Parliament –which does not participate in the negotiations, but it has a right of veto on any agreement with London– has also drawn his “red lines” on Wednesday in a draft resolution that will be voted on in plenary on 13 march.

“To break the stalemate, I think it is important that the british government is seriously committed in the european Parliament’s proposal for an association agreement”, is broader than a trade agreement, said Guy Verhofstadt, co-ordinator of the Parliament on the Brexit.

“The United Kingdom is not Mexico, or Morocco, or Ukraine,” he argued.

The president of the european Parliament, Antonio Tajani, has estimated that the free trade agreement with London could go “further than those of the EU, with Canada or Japan” but that they “will be the model”.

Anyway, a trade agreement will not be concluded by the scheduled date of Brexit, at the end of march 2019, hence the need for a transition period.

In the meantime, the 27-hope to be finalized by the fall of a “political declaration” setting out the framework for these future relationships, and that may accompany the withdrawal agreement, including the negotiation is far from complete.

Mrs May has rejected the first version prepared by the EU, claiming that the measures “unacceptable” on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

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