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EU President's letter: Britain must settle 'people, money and Ireland' first

“Before discussing our future, we must first sort out our past,” Tusk wrote, ahead of a summit tomorrow.

EU PRESIDENT DONALD Tusk has said Britain must first settle the key divorce issues of “people, money and Ireland” before any talks on a post-Brexit trade deal.

In a letter to leaders of the remaining 27 European Union countries ahead of a summit tomorrow, Tusk said that “before discussing our future, we must first sort out our past.”

Former Polish premier Tusk said the “only possible approach” was phased talks in which Britain must make “sufficient progress” on the divorce issues before talks on future relations.

Britain had wanted to discuss its divorce settlement with the union and a trade deal at the same time.

The EU says the key issues are the fate of three million EU citizens living in Britain and one million Britons resident in the EU; Britain’s exit bill estimated at around 60 billion euros; and the fate of the border between the Republic and the North.

“This is not only a matter of tactics, but – given the limited time frame we have to conclude the talks – it is the only possible approach,” Tusk wrote to the leaders.

“I would like us to unite around this key principle during the upcoming summit, so that it is clear that progress on people, money and Ireland must come first,” he wrote.

And we have to be ready to defend this logic during the upcoming negotiations.

tusk1 Source: Donald Tusk

His comments come a day after a war of words between British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the two years of negotiations ahead of Britain’s exit from the EU in March 2019.

Merkel said Britain should not have “illusions” about getting favourable treatment, but May hit back by accusing the EU 27 of planning to “line up to oppose us”.

At tomorrow’s summit the EU 27 leaders are set to adopt guidelines for the negotiations on Brexit, following May’s formal triggering of the two-year divorce process last month.

“We expect Ireland to ask on Saturday for a statement to be added to the minutes of the European Council, which states that in case of a unification of the island in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement, the united Ireland would be a member of the EU,” an EU Council source told AFP.

We do not expect a change of the guidelines themselves, but only a statement to the minutes.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has previously stated that the EU’s guidelines for Brexit should include a provision that would allow Northern Ireland automatically rejoin the EU should reunification with the Republic ever happen.

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Speaking yesterday Kenny said he hoped EU leaders meeting this weekend could agree a “base document” and said that the priorities for Ireland had already been identified in Prime Minister May’s ‘Article 50′ letter to Tusk, as well as in other documents.

Those priorities he said, were, “our citizens, our economy, our trading links with Britain, the border, the common travel area – but, principally, Ireland’s future as a member of the 27 of the European Union”.

So that’s a base document that I hope we can get approval for on Saturday and that would be followed with a number of other more detailed issues and language around them that will be for approval probably towards the middle of May.

Fianna Fáil’s Senator Mark Daly said this morning’s developments were to be welcomed.

“This is good news for the 56% of the people of Northern Ireland who voted to remain in the European Union in the referendum last year. It now provides a clear pathway for those who value membership of the EU to retain it.

“This acceptance of the position as contained in the Good Friday Agreement is a welcome development from EU leaders.”

- With reporting from AFP and Ronan Duffy

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Daragh Brophy

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