European Council President Donald Tusk has asked EU leaders – excluding the UK Prime Minister Theresa May – to meet at the end of April to discuss the Brexit. The gathering will serve as a platform to agree on the guidelines for the Brexit negotiations with the United Kingdom and set out the priorities for the upcoming EU-UK negotiations.
“As you all know, I personally wish the UK hadn’t chosen to leave the EU, but the majority of British voters decided otherwise. Therefore, we must do everything we can to make the process of divorce the least painful for the EU,” Mr. Tusk said in an official statement. “Our main priority for the negotiations must be to create as much certainty and clarity as possible for all citizens, companies and member states that will be negatively affected by Brexit, as well as our important partners and friends around the world,” Mr. Tusk said.
Mr. Tusk convened the meeting after Theresa May’s government had informed the EU that it would trigger Article 50 on 29 March. This move will initiate a two-year window for divorce talks to be settled and approved. As soon as European leaders agree on the Brexit guidelines, the EU will need another few weeks to create a formal negotiating mandate for Michel Barnier, who will lead the day-to-day negotiations on behalf of the EU. Only after this is done, substantive talks between Brussels and London can begin. The meeting has been scheduled for 29 April, which is between the first and second round of France’s closely watched presidential election.
In another but related development, a leak of the EU’s negotiating strategy has revealed that Brussels will take Britain to the International Court of Justice if it tries to walk away without paying an estimated £50bn ‘divorce bill’. According to a Dutch newspaper, the draft plan threatens a long legal battle at The Hague to get back what the EU views as the UK’s liabilities for its 43-year membership. In response to UK prime minister’s threat to leave with “no deal” if the Brexit talks will be “a difficult path”, an EU official was quoted as saying: “In that case it is: see you in The Hague!”