Brexit going ahead, deal or no deal

  • 30/03/2017
Brexit protesters in London (Reuters)
Brexit protesters in London (Reuters)

Britain is still willing to walk away from the European Union with no Brexit deal, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May says.

While May was addressing parliament on Wednesday after triggering formal divorce talks with the EU, her spokesman told reporters there could be varying timetables for different areas in the talks when asked why she referred to implementation periods in her letter to European Council president Donald Tusk.

The Prime Minister, an initial opponent of Brexit who won the top job in the political turmoil that followed the referendum vote, now has two years to settle the terms of the divorce before it comes into effect in late March 2019.

"The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union," Ms May told lawmakers in the British parliament "This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back."

The outcome of the negotiations will shape the future of Britain's economy, the world's fifth biggest, and determine whether London can keep its place as one of the top two global financial centres.

France's foreign minister said talks for a future relationship can only take place once Brexit negotiations have concluded.

"After the negotiation of the separation, there will be another negotiation and that will be the organisation of the future relations between the 27 in the European Union and Great Britain," Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters.

Ms May said in a letter to the EU earlier on Wednesday that she wanted to produce a divorce deal as well as one on a future relationship by March 2019.

Mr Ayrault said the talks for Britain's exit would be difficult and that Ms May could not cherry pick what it wanted from the deal.

"We have to hold these talks in a way that is constructive and respectful of Great Britain. It is not at all our state of mind to want to punish a population because it voted how it felt," he said.

For the EU, already reeling from successive crises over debt and refugees, the loss of Britain is the biggest blow yet in 60 years.

Within 48 hours, Mr Tusk will send the 27 other states draft negotiating guidelines. Ambassadors of the 27 will then meet in Brussels to discuss Tusk's draft.

Mr Tusk said the EU would seek to minimise the cost to EU citizens and businesses and that Brussels wanted an orderly withdrawal for Britain.

"We already miss you," Mr Tusk said. "Thank you and goodbye."

Germany optimistic

German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries expects Britain to suffer from the negative effects of Brexit to a greater extent than the German economy.

Zypries said on Wednesday she expected the German economy, Europe's largest, would be able to cope with any negative effects caused by Britain's departure from the EU.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country will push for the impact of Brexit on Germans and other European Union citizens living in Britain to be as minimal as possible.

She said she wants Britain and the EU to remain "close partners".

During a speech in Berlin that the divorce talks triggered on Wednesday must first focus on undoing in an orderly fashion four decades of ties between Britain and the EU.

"Only when these questions are cleared up can we subsequently - but hopefully soon - talk about our future relationship."

Ms Merkel also said the remaining EU member nations will negotiate with Britain "in a fair and constructive manner."

She added that Ms May had assured her Britain would negotiate in a similar spirit in a phone conversation on Tuesday.

In an opinion piece for a German newspaper after triggering divorce talks with the EU, Ms May said Britain appreciates its partnership with Germany and wants to continue being an ally of other European countries.

"We really appreciate this long-lasting friendship and partnership between our countries," Ms May wrote in a piece for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

She said Britain wanted to "remain a committed partner and ally to Germany and all of our other friends on the continent" and added that putting up unnecessary barriers to business would be "damaging for us all".