"We do not want to build a wall" EU aiming for close post-Brexit ties with UK

Donald Tusk warns relations will be more "complicated and costly" than they are today

"We do not want to build a wall" EU aiming for close post-Brexit ties with UK

EU Council President Donald Tusk waves to the media ahead of a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street in London, 01-03-2018. image: AP Photo/Frank Augstein

The European Council President has again noted that Europe aims to build "as close as possible a partnership" with the UK following Brexit.

Donald Tusk this afternoon published the EUs draft guidelines for the second phase of Brexit negotiations - focusing on the post-Brexit trading relationship.

Announcing the guidelines he warned that "we do not want to build a wall between the EU and Britain."

"The UK will be our closest neighbour and we want to remain friends and partners after Brexit - partners that are as close as possible, just like we have said from the very first day after the referendum," he said.

Despite his conciliatory tone however, he warned that any future trading arrangement will "not make trade between the UK and EU frictionless or smoother."

"It will make it more complicated and costly than today for all of us," he said. "This is the essence of Brexit."


While the guidelines make clear that the EU desires "as close as possible a partnership," it is noted that there will be "negative economic consequences."

"The European Council restates the Union's determination to have as close as possible a partnership with the UK in the future," the document says.

"Such a partnership should cover trade and economic co-operation as well as other areas, in particular the fight against terrorism and international crime, as well as security, defence and foreign policy."

Checks and controls

But the text continues: "At the same time, the European Council has to take into account the repeatedly stated positions of the UK, which limit the depth of such a future partnership.

"Being outside the customs union and the single market will inevitably lead to frictions.

"Divergence in external tariffs and internal rules as well as absence of common institutions and a shared legal system, necessitates checks and controls to uphold the integrity of the EU single market as well as of the UK market.

"This unfortunately will have negative economic consequences."


The guidelines warn there can be "no cherry-picking" of particular sectors, like financial services, participating in the EU's single market.

The free trade agreement on offer "cannot offer the same benefits as membership and cannot amount to participation in the single market."

The guidelines are due to be rubber-stamped by leaders of the remaining 27 EU states at a summit later this month, paving the way for talks on the future relationship to commence.

Irish Border

Europe has published the guidelines as controversy continues over the agreements reached at the end of the first phase of negotiations in December.

The British Prime Minister has rejected the draft withdrawal agreement published by Europe based on the understandings reached in December.

Theresa May has said it threatens the "constitutional integrity" of the UK and insisted no UK Prime Minister could agree to it.

The text includes three scenarios in the document that could avoid a hard border in Ireland. The third of these, the 'back-stop' arrangement, would see the establishment of a "common regulatory area" between the UK and the EU in Northern Ireland.

The arrangement has angered unionist who have warned that it would effectively place the border in the Irish sea between Ireland and Britain.

Northern Ireland's DUP party has claimed plans are "unacceptable" with party leader Arlene Foster insisting the text is not a fair interpretation of the agreement reached.

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meanwhile, has warned that anyone who is unhappy with the agreement must now bring forward legally enforceable alternatives.

"Just saying no and just being angry is not enough," he said.

“If people don’t like what they see today, it is incumbent on them now to come up with alternative solutions."

Red lines

British Prime Minister Theresa May has committed Britain to leaving the EU's single market and customs union and ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Mr Tusk said these "red lines" meant the only possible option for a trade deal was an agreement similar to the one the EU signed with Canada.

He said negotiators would aim for a " trade agreement covering all sectors and with zero tariffs on goods."

He warned that despite the "positive approach" taken by negotiators

"I hope that it will be ambitious and advanced and that we will do our best, as we did with other partners such as Canada," he said.

"This positive approach doesn't change the simple fact that because of Brexit we will be drifting apart."

Additional reporting from IRN ...