Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

EU tells UK: 'We will not punish you. Brexit is punishment enough'

Donald Tusk reveals bloc’s negotiating stance for next two years of talks

Adam Withnall
Friday 31 March 2017 09:12 BST
Donald Tusk on Brexit negotiations: 'We will not pursue a punitive approach'

The European Council President Donald Tusk has said the EU will not punish the UK, because Brexit is “punishment enough”, as he released a set of draft guidelines defining the bloc’s position on talks for the next two years.

Mr Tusk spoke at a news conference after the guidelines were sent to the heads of the 27 remaining members of the EU – and immediately leaked to several news outlets.

The draft guidelines appeared to offer a concession to Theresa May, suggesting talks on future trade arrangements could begin once “sufficient progress” was made on the initial Brexit divorce deal.

But speaking to reporters, Mr Tusk said this was not the same thing as the “parallel talks” demanded in Ms May’s letter triggering Article 50.

The EC President insisted Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc must come ahead of any new relationship between the two parties.

Yet he said the EU will not seek to punish the UK in the initial stage of the talks. “We will not be punitive. Brexit itself is punitive enough,” he said.

The head of the rotating EU presidency, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, appeared alongside Mr Tusk at the news conference.

He said the Brexit negotiations will be tough but “it will not be a war,” and warned both sides that citizens in Britain and other EU nations should not be used a “bargaining chips”.

That same phrase was repeated by Mr Tusk at the end of the conference, in the context of security cooperation between the EU and the UK.

Mr Muscat admitted that he and other European leaders had read with concern Ms May’s comments, in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil, in which she referred to Britain's “valuable” contribution to security across the continent.

Asked whether the UK would stay a member of Europol after Brexit, the Prime Minister said: “I think security co-operation in a number of crime and justice matters is important for us.

“It’s not just Europol, there are some other things, there are systems about exchanging information about people crossing borders, for example, which I think are valuable: valuable to us, and valuable to the other countries in the EU...

“I would like to be able to maintain the degree of co-operation on these matters that we have currently.”

Mr Tusk said that, particularly after the attack on Westminster nine days ago, it was clear terrorism was a “common” threat to the whole of Europe, and said security was “not a bargaining chip” on the table.

Mr Muscat said he had received assurances from Downing Street that the matter was one of “misinterpretation”. He said the UK were “decent partners”, and his government would take the British government “at its word”.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in