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EU Leaders say Freedom of Movement cannot be Compromised in Brexit Talks by the Block

EU Leaders say Freedom of Movement cannot be Compromised in Brexit Talks by the Block
Unless London also accepts the freedom of movement of workers that lies at its foundation, there can be no granting Britain access to the European Union's single market, the EU's top officials said on Friday after an EU summit in Bratislava.
"We want to have very good, very close relation with the UK. At the same time, it is not possible for these negotiations to damage our interests," the head of the executive European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker told a news conference.
"Concerning the freedom of movement of workers and of persons ... we are sticking to that position and this is not a game between prime ministers leaving and prime ministers remaining, this is about people in Europe," Juncker said.
"So I cannot see any possibility of compromising on that very issue," he said.
Divorce negotiations with Britain should be run in the interest of the remaining 27 countries of the bloc, rather than Britain's and should be held only after a notification from London, said the chairman of the EU summit Donald Tusk.
"It's absolutely clear that our procedures, our rules, described very precisely in our treaties, are to protect our interests, of the 27 countries, not the leaving country," Tusk told a news conference in Bratislava after the first meeting of EU leaders with Britain after the June 23 Brexit referendum.
Without a formal notification by the British government, talks with Britain cannot begin, he also reiterated. Talks may be formally triggered in January or February, British Prime Minister Theresa May told him, he added.
“Prime Minister May was very open and honest with me. She declared that it’s almost impossible to trigger article 50 this year but it’s quite likely that they will be ready maybe in January, maybe in February next year,” he said.
As the EU leaders sought to craft a vision for the future without its second-biggest economy, the meeting in the Slovak capital of the 27 other EU leaders was over hung by the U.K.’s pending withdrawal and the two years of talks it will entail.
The EU should ensure it doesn’t “damage our interests” by granting too many concessions to the British, said Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, in a sign of how hard the split may prove.
"The negotiations must lead to a result where it is clear that it is worth being a member of the EU. There are more advantages than disadvantages in being a member state and we can achieve that,” he said.
Warning against U.K.’s “cherry picking” was issued by him claiming that U.K. could try to avoid the downsides such as accepting the free movement of labor and try to maintain the advantages of EU membership such as access to its single market for trade.
 “You can’t just pick out the best items that suit you,” he said, adding he didn’t see “any possibility” the U.K. could find a compromise on migration controls.
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Christopher J. Mitchell

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