The Latest: EU foreign chief: defense OK despite Brexit
BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on Brexit (all times local):
The European Union foreign policy chief says that EU defense and security missions won’t be overly hampered by the withdrawal of Britain from the bloc.
Even though Britain is a major pillar for NATO with its nuclear power and the biggest European defense budget of the alliance, its impact on EU operations is different.
Federica Mogherini said at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers that “the U.K. contributes today only 3 percent of the civilian capabilities in our EU operations and missions and 5 percent to the military ones.”
Mogherini says “it is a valued contribution, but, for sure, a contribution without which the European Union’s defense and security work can continue perfectly well.”
She said that “it is not a percentage that the other member states cannot fill in once they will be gone. So I wish we could and we will establish a good and solid security and defense cooperation also after Brexit.”
The EU’s roadmap on Brexit negotiations leaves the U.K. and Spain to discuss what agreements will apply to Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on the edge of Spain that Spain has wanted back since it ceded it more than three centuries ago.
This could force a dialogue on Gibraltar in which Madrid could have the upper hand. Still, the Spanish government has said it will ensure an open border for European workers that are key to both Gibraltar and the neighboring area in southern Spain.
Gibraltar has a population of 32,000 and about 96 percent of its residents voted to remain in the EU last year.
Spanish minister Inigo Mendez de Vigo says “this is an important point in the future negotiations of the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU.”
Germany says the question of Britain’s commitments toward the European Union after it leaves the bloc needs to be resolved before talks about future relations with the U.K. can begin.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Friday that the “the second step can hopefully happen soon” but appeared to dampen once again British hopes of parallel talks.
A top European Union official says Europe and Britain don’t want to use each other’s citizens as “hostages” in the Brexit talks, and also says there’s no room for security issues to be used for “blackmail.”
Resolving the status of British and other European citizens living in each other’s countries will be an early priority. Frans Timmermans, the vice president of the European Commission, said in Madrid Friday: “These people shouldn’t suffer because of Brexit.” He added that “there is no one who wants to use citizens as hostages in this, no one. Not on the British side, not on the European side.”
Some felt Britain’s departure letter hinted that London was threatening to end security cooperation unless it gets a good Brexit deal.
But Timmermans said: “You can’t blackmail someone with one of your own existential requirements ... there is no real possibility for blackmail there because security for the United Kingdom, even if they’re not in the EU, will stay an essential requirement for themselves.”
A senior EU official says it will take more than two years to hammer out all the details of Britain’s departure from the European Union.
The official, speaking in Brussels on Friday, said EU leaders should adopt the final mandate to begin the negotiations shortly after May 22, after Britain formally triggered the process this week.
The official said that “even with the best of efforts, it will not be possible to negotiate all those details” in two years.
EU negotiators have said the transition may extend beyond the two-year timeframe outlined in the EU exit process because of the myriad details of trade and other aspects of the divorce.
The official also said that only a summit of all remaining 27 EU leaders can decide when there is enough progress on the withdrawal talks to start looking at a future relationship between Britain and the EU. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic issues.
--By Raf Casert in Brussels
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says “there’s lots of good will” among European Union partners since Britain triggered its divorce proceedings from the bloc.
Johnson, speaking in Brussels upon arrival for a NATO meeting Friday, said he has had good feedback from partners since Wednesday’s British announcement, despite worries on both sides of the Channel about Brexit.
“We really are moving forward now. There’s a lot of good will, willingness to achieve what the Prime Minister has said she wants to achieve,” he said.
He also insisted that Britain’s commitment to European defense and security is “unconditional” and “not some bargaining chip in any negotiations” over Brexit.
EU Council President Donald Tusk says there will be no parallel talks on Britain’s exit and future relations with the European Union.
Tusk insisted Friday after a meeting in Malta that withdrawal from the bloc comes ahead of any new relationship with Britain. But he also said the EU will not punish the U.K. in the exit talks, and that the so-called Brexit is punitive enough.
Tusk put guidelines on Britain’s exit to the remaining 27 EU members Friday.
The head of the rotating EU presidency, Joseph Muscat, said citizens in Britain and other EU nations should not be used a “bargaining chips.”
Muscat said the Brexit negotiations will be tough but “it will not be a war.”
The guidelines that European Union Council President Donald Tusk is putting to EU members make it clear that withdrawal from the bloc comes ahead of any new relationship with Britain even though the rough outlines such a relationship may partially overlap.
In the draft guidelines obtained by the Associated Press, it says that first the EU and Britain must “settle the disentanglement” of Britain from the EU but added that “an overall understanding on the framework for the future relationship could be identified during the second phase of the negotiations under Article 50.”
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.