Donald Tusk outlines possible areas of EU-UK cooperation post-Brexit

Written by Martin Banks on 7 March 2018 in News

European Council President Donald Tusk has insisted the EU “does not want to build a wall”, but Brexit means “we will be drifting apart”.

Donald Tusk | Photo credit: Press Association

He was speaking on Wednesday in Luxembourg as the EU outlined draft guidelines for negotiations on post-Brexit relations with the UK.

He said UK Prime Minister Theresa May wanted to “demonstrate at any price that Brexit could be a success”, but that was not the EU’s objective.

Brussels, he said, wants an “ambitious and advanced” free trade agreement with zero tariffs on goods.


The EU will seek continued security and research cooperation and to ensure flights were not grounded - but he rejected any chance of what the EU calls UK “cherry picking” of single market membership for certain sectors.

The draft guidelines say existing fishing rights for EU vessels in UK waters will continue.

The leaders of the remaining 27 EU states must approve the plans at a Brussels summit on 22 March, setting the template for chief negotiator Michel Barnier for talks with the UK about their future relationship.

Tusk said, “My proposal shows that we don’t want to build a wall between the EU and Britain. On the contrary, the UK will be our closest neighbour and we want to remain friends and partners also after Brexit. Partners that are as close as possible, just like we have said from the very first day after the referendum.

“In this spirit, I propose close cooperation within the following areas. First, as we are confronted with similar security threats, I propose that the EU and the UK continue our common fight against terrorism and international crime. The increasing global instability requires our uninterrupted cooperation in defence and foreign affairs. It is about the security of our citizens, which must be preserved beyond Brexit.”

Tusk went on, “Second, we invite the UK to participate in EU programmes in the fields of research and innovation, as well as in education and culture. This is key to maintain mutually beneficial and enriching personal networks in these vital areas, and for our community of values to prosper also in future.”

Third, the former Polish Prime Minister said he was “determined to avoid that particularly absurd consequence of Brexit that is the disruption of flights between the UK and the EU.”

He added, “To do so, we must start discussions on this issue as soon as possible.”

On the future economic relationship, Tusk said, “It should come as no surprise that the only remaining possible model is a free trade agreement.”

He added, “I hope that it will be ambitious and advanced - and we will do our best, as we did with other partners, such as Canada recently - but anyway it will only be a trade agreement. I propose that we aim for a trade agreement covering all sectors and with zero tariffs on goods. Like other free trade agreements, it should address services. And in fisheries, reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources should be maintained.”

Tusk went on, “This positive approach doesn't change the simple fact that because of Brexit we will be drifting apart. In fact, this will be the first FTA in history that loosens economic ties, instead of strengthening them. Our agreement will not make trade between the UK and the EU frictionless or smoother. It will make it more complicated and costly than today, for all of us. This is the essence of Brexit.

Ashley Fox, leader of the Conservative MEPs, said, “Donald Tusk’s draft guidelines leave scope for negotiation and I am pleased to hear him echo the UK’s desire to strike ‘an ambitious and advanced’ free trade agreement.  

“Significant differences remain and much tough talking lies ahead, but we share a common goal and I believe a mutually beneficial deal is achievable.

“Equally, I welcome the mention of continued cooperation in areas such as security and research contained in the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group resolution. However, Parliament should not be attempting to dictate the course of talks.”


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine


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