Tusk Predicts 'Tough' Brexit Talks as he Delivers Draft Negotiating Guidelines

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The first phase will be used to settle key questions regarding Britain's exit, like the divorce bill, reciprocal rights of European Union citizens, and issue of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The draft guidelines set the tone for the coming two years of Brexit talks and will now be sent to the capitals of the 27 remaining European Union countries ahead of a special summit in Brussels on April 29.

"Starting parallel talks on all issues at the same time, as suggested by some in the United Kingdom, will not happen". "It is clear both sides wish to approach these talks constructively and, as the Prime Minister said this week, wish to ensure a deep and special partnership between the United Kingdom and the European Union".

The UK was also told it would have to keep much of the European Union legislation it is now subject to if it wants a free trade deal, with a warning against "fiscal, social and environmental dumping".

The EU's opening gambit in what Mr Tusk said would at times be a "confrontational" negotiation with Mrs May's government also rammed home Brussels' insistence that while it was open to letting Britain retain some rights in the EU during a transition after 2019, it would do so only on its own terms.

"The U.K.is now on the other side of the other side of the table", Tusk said, adding that the EU's role is to "minimize the uncertainty" that Brexit has created for businesses and citizens.

"It is clear both sides wish to approach these talks constructively, and as the prime minister said this week, wish to ensure a deep and special partnership between the United Kingdom and the European Union", the spokesman said, in an email distributed from May's office.

In her letter, the prime minister expressed her belief that "it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the European Union". "But paradoxically there is something positive in Brexit", Tusk added.

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The 27 member states will demand that the withdrawal agreement include appropriate dispute settlement mechanisms, as well as mechanisms to deal with situations that may arise in future, and are not covered by the exit deal.

The guidelines also say the issue of citizens living in each other's countries is a priority, and call for "flexible and imaginative solutions" for the issue of the U.K.'s land border with Ireland.

But May's warning in the letter that failure to clinch a deal on trade would affect Britain's cooperation on terrorism and security still rankled with many.

The EU is due to have its first meeting post Article 50 on April 29 to hammer out a common set of negotiation principles to present to the UK Government.

European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday set out the fundamental guidelines for the two-year Brexit negotiations.

Earlier this week the Taoiseach said he was confident that Ireland's interests will be reflected in the draft Brexit negotiating guidelines due to be published by Brussels on Friday.

However, this was immediately rejected by both German chancellor Angela Merkel and the French president Francois Hollande.