European Council President Donald Tusk has warned that the UK must resolve the issues of “people, money and Ireland” before starting negotiations over Britain’s future trade relations with the European Union after it exits the bloc.
In a letter to EU member states on Friday, Tusk said the bloc would consider a future trade relationship with Britain only once the London settled settled its financial obligations and the rights of European citizens in the country.
Tusk sent the letter ahead of a meeting of the EU-27 to discuss Brexit in Brussels on Saturday.
“We will not discuss our future relations with the UK until we have achieved sufficient progress on the main issues relating to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU,” Tusk wrote.
“Before discussing our future, we must first sort out our the past. We need to secure the best guarantees for our citizens and their families,” the former Polish prime minister said.
“Progress on people, money and Ireland must come first. And we have to be ready to defend this logic during the upcoming negotiations.”
The British government had hoped to be able to negotiate a new trade deal with the EU while simultaneously conducting the complex process of separating from the bloc.
On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned the UK not to harbor “illusions” that it can negotiate a deal on future relations with the EU at the same time as negotiating its departure, adding that it “cannot and will not have the same rights as a member of the EU.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty last month to officially begin divorce talks between Britain and the EU. However, Brexit negotiations will not begin until after the UK general election on June 8.
The United Kingdom held a referendum last June in which Britons voted by a 52-48 percent margin to leave the EU, the first member state ever to do so.