Donald Tusk: UK must settle ‘people, money and Ireland’ first in Brexit talks
Donald Tusk has said issues surrounding European citizens, the Brexit divorce bill and the Irish border must be settled before talks on Britain’s future relationship with the EU can be agreed.
In a major blow for Theresa May, the European Council President said he wanted the the 27 other EU member states to unite around the principle that "people, money and Ireland" should be the priority on entering talks with the UK.
His comments directly contradict Boris Johnson, who yesterday insisted that future trade talks would take place before Britain's bill for leaving the EU is agreed.
The EU27 are due to meet at a summit in Brussels on Saturday where Mr Tusk will call on members to “defend this logic during the upcoming negotiations”.
Speaking this morning, he said “sufficient progress” would have to be agreed before proceeding with further negotiations.
“This is not only a matter of tactics, but - given the limited time frame we have to conclude the talks - it is the only possible approach,” he said.
“In other words, before discussing our future, we must first sort out our past.”
Theresa May has so far refused to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit until the arrangement is reciprocated for British nationals in Europe.
Senior EU figures have suggested Britain could be hit with a €60 "divorce bill" to meet its financial obligations.
Mr Tusk added: "We need to secure the best guarantees for our citizens and their families. Guarantees that are effective, enforceable, non-discriminatory and comprehensive, and which should be accompanied by simple and smooth administrative procedures."
"We should also agree with the UK that all financial obligations undertaken by the EU of 28 will be honoured also by the UK."
He added that a "hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic should be avoided in the interest of "peace and reconciliation described by the Good Friday Agreement".
"I would like us to unite around this key principle during the upcoming summit, so that it is clear that progress on people, money and Ireland must come first," he added.