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Brexit talks to start hours after election, says EU negotiator Michel Barnier

Brexit talks to start hours after election, says EU negotiator Michel Barnier

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said on Wednesday (17 May) that negotiations between the EU and the United Kingdom should start "as soon as possible, the day after the [UK] elections", which will be held on 8 June.

MEPs welcomed the unity of the 27 Member States and the European Union institutions with regard to Brexit and also called for a reform of the European Union to benefit all its citizens.

"I don't know, Mr Juncker, whether this is how you carry on in Luxembourg", he said.

Avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is one of three priorities for the EU as it enters the first phase of Brexit negotiations with the UK, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs.

Mr. Barnier said many people regretted Britain's decision to leave, "but now we have to implement it and that decision has consequences".

Any trade deal linking the EU and Britain after Brexit will require guarantees against "unfair competition" by the UK, EU Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday (May 17).

The vast majority of EU citizens want the Brexit negotiations to focus on protecting the interests of the remaining 27 member states, not on securing privileges for the United Kingdom, according to a new study carried out on behalf of the European People's Party (EPP).

"Today it is too early to tell much more about our common future, but we will make our guidelines more precise when the time comes, namely when sufficient progress in the first phase is achieved", the top European Union official said.

Mr Barnier added he hopes to start the talks as soon as possible, adding: "The day after the elections that (Prime Minister Theresa May) has called for on June 8".

Mrs May and her ministerial colleagues have repeatedly claimed no deal is better than a bad deal from the UK's point of view.

Manfred Weber, chairman of the EEP group (which is a centre-right grouping in the European Parliament), said: "The EPP group has always made it clear that our priority in the negotiations with the United Kingdom on Brexit was to defend the interests of EU citizens". It'll also depend on the actual date of the UK's exit.

In response to claims from the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage that the European Union was seeking "a ransom" in a divorce bill estimated by some to be as much as €100bn, Barnier said: "I have never quoted these figures".

"We will work with the British, calmly and without fuss", he said, "To find an agreement on the commitments which have been made. It is not [me] who will set a figure". We can't spend two years with this farce, ' Farage told the legislature in Strasbourg.


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