In a news conference in Malta, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, has presented the draft guidelines which outline the positions the EU will follow throughout the negotiations with the UK. The paper was sent to the 27 member states for approval. Talking today from the Maltese island in the Mediterranean Sea, Tusk was no longer bitter for the UK’s decision, but appeared confident and determined, saying that this is not going to “be a war” and that the EU and the UK can remain friends.

Tusk said that talks would be difficult but the EU won’t "pursue a punitive approach". He also mentioned that there’s no Brexit bill, but the UK will have to pay its fair share: “It is only fair towards all those people, communities, scientists, farmers and so on to whom we, all the 28, promised and owe this money.”

It appears that under the scorching sun of Tusk, the Brexit negotiations would be tough and arduous. At least this is what the draft guidelines show. 

Draft guidelines

The nine-page guidelines, which will be discussed by the 27 member states in the coming weeks, will be used in the EU-27 summit on 29 April. 

Core principles

From the very first pages of the document, the EU makes it clear that there won’t be any cherry picking: “A non-member of the Union, that does not live up to the same obligations as a member, cannot have the same rights and enjoy the same benefits as a member. In this context, the European Council welcomes the recognition by the British Government that the four freedoms of the Single Market are indivisible and that there can be no "cherry picking".

Another of the EU’s core principles was that the negotiations will be conducted between the EU and the UK, with the EU having a unified position and engaging with the UK according to the appropriate channels. In this sense, there won’t be separate negotiations between individual member states and the UK on matters that have to do with Brexit. 

“phased approach”

In order to assure an “orderly withdrawal” and “minimise disruption” the negotiations will proceed in gradual stages. 

The first phase will disentangle the UK from the EU and the rights, obligations and commitments the UK has as a member state.  It will also seek to provide security to citizens and companies about the Brexit process. The EU will monitor the progress in order to decide whether the negotiations would be able to proceed to the next phase. 

Future relationship

Only when the UK has become a third country, will an agreement about the future relationship of the two sides be concluded.  The paper states that an “overall understanding on the framework for the future relationship could be identified during a second phase of the negotiations under Article 50. The Union and its Member States stand ready to engage in preliminary and preparatory discussions to this end in the context of negotiations under Article 50 TEU, as soon as sufficient progress has been made in the first phase towards reaching a satisfactory agreement on the arrangements for an orderly withdrawal.”

EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU

The draft stressed that there need to be guarantees that are non-discriminatory about the rights of every EU citizen and his or her family members to live, work or study in any member state of the EU: “Agreeing reciprocal guarantees to settle the status and situations at the date of withdrawal of EU and UK citizens, and their families, affected by the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the Union will be a matter of priority for the negotiations. Such guarantees must be enforceable and non-discriminatory.”

Negotiations should prevent and address uncertainties when it comes to EU businesses trading and operating in the UK and UK businesses trading and operating in the EU. 

In terms of Cyprus, the draft mentioned those EU citizens living in the Sovereign Base Areas of the UK in Cyprus, and that the EU should agree with the UK on arrangements between the UK and Cyprus which are in agreement with EU law. 

Single market

The EU is willing to agree on a trade deal once the UK is no longer a member state: “The British government has indicated that it will not seek to remain in the single market, but would like to pursue an ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union. Based on the Union's interests, the European Council stands ready to initiate work towards such an agreement, to be finalised and concluded once the United Kingdom is no longer a Member State.”

Security and terrorism

“Beyond trade, the EU stands ready to consider establishing a partnership in other areas, in particular the fight against terrorism and international crime as well as security and defence.”

The UK will remain a full member state of the EU until it finally leaves the EU. 

The UK’s response

A spokesperson for the UK government said: “These are draft guidelines and we look forward to beginning negotiations once they have been formally agreed by the 27 member states. 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 UK and the European Union.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: "There's a lot of goodwill... to achieve what the prime minister has said she wants to achieve, which is an orderly transition."

Ukip leader Paul Nuttall said that the EU wanting to "play hardball with the reciprocal rights of individual citizens" was not in the interest of member states, and that as Brexit neared they would see the EU's "rigid approach" as the biggest problem.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, however, saw in guidelines "the strength of the EU in these negotiations and the carelessness of the UK government in isolating themselves from our European allies".

Beyond the individual parties and their accepted positions, the EU with all its bureaucratic structure and European ideals, appears to take a hard position, while remaining open to the UK’s suggestions. As the negotiations progress, Ukip’s ideological pyrotechniques would disappear under the Tuskan sun, and only a calm and measured approach would be able to move us forward.