Brussels, April 29 (TASR-correspondent) – A great deal of progress was made at the European Council meeting on Saturday, as the European leaders showed their unity and determination to act collectively heading into talks with the United Kingdom on conditions governing the UK’s exit from the EU, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said in Brussels on Saturday.
He was speaking after an extraordinary EU-27 summit that was dedicated to guidelines for negotiations regarding Brexit.
“This determination and preparedness is seen in the high quality of the preparation work. There were practically no reservations or proposals for changes to the so-called negotiation guidelines, and we adopted them within several minutes,” said the premier.
All leaders insist on the EU’s unity in the negotiations, because that’s the only way to ensure a successful outcome, he said. “A scenario that the UK as a non-member country ends up with better conditions concerning, for example, the single market than it has as an EU-member country at the moment is inadmissible,” said Fico.
In addition, the EU leaders must adopt a single negotiation package, while partial agreements are out of the question, he added. The EU also seeks to send a clear message that it will not tolerate ‘cherry-picking’, with the leaders committed to the integrity of the single market and to respect for the four fundamental freedoms, said Fico.
He went on to herald two stages in the negotiations: the ‘divorce’ itself, involving especially the standing of the EU citizens residing in the UK, and the settlement of the financial commitments.
“First the divorce, then the future, citizens, funds and everything else,” said Fico, summing up the process, which he said should conclude in late 2018 and early 2019.
The premier also said that he wants both the EU and the UK to benefit from their post-Brexit relations. “I think it’ll be painful, but if it should hurt one side more than the other, then it should be more painful for the UK, because they’ve made their own decision to leave and it wouldn’t be right to make the EU-27 pay a price for it. It wasn’t our choice, it was a decision taken by the United Kingdom,” said Fico.