EU states back guidelines for Brexit talks following election
Leaders of the 27 remaining EU states have approved tough guidelines for chief negotiator Michel Barnier for Brexit talks due to start after the June 8 General Election.
Mr Barnier said he aimed to hold the first round of negotiations with the UK in the week of June 19 and report back to the European Council summit of June 22-23, exactly a year after the referendum vote to quit the EU.
EU leaders meeting in Brussels agreed there must be "sufficient progress" on the status of expatriate citizens, the UK-EU border in Ireland and Britain's payment of a "divorce bill", estimated at up to 100 billion euro (£86 billion) before any talks on a future trade deal.
At a Brussels press conference, Mr Barnier told reporters the agreement was "a demonstration of determination and confidence" backed not only by all 27 national governments, but also by the European Commission, European Council and European Parliament.
"We are ready and well prepared," said Mr Barnier.
"We have a clear mandate supported by all 27 member states.
"We have a solid resolution of the European Parliament, we have excellent working relations between the EU institutions.
"We have a negotiating team. All structurals are in place."
A Brexit working group will meet for a few days from Tuesday to finalise EU negotiating positions on key topics in the first phase of talks, said Mr Barnier.
"These positions will be sent to the UK," he said.
"I expect this to happen very quickly after the election.
"In line with our transparency policy, we will publish our position papers and negotiating documents."
Mr Barnier said he hoped to get around the negotiating table with the UK team "as soon as possible" and looked forward to talks taking place in a "positive atmosphere".