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Maasikas: Untangling EU and UK promising to be extremely difficult

The the European Union and the United Kingdom were very closely intertwined, which was why untangling and separating them would be very difficult, Estonia’s permanent representative to the European Union, Matti Maasikas, said on Wednesday.

British prime minister Theresa May signed her letter to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union on Tuesday. With it, the United Kingdom’s formal announcement of its exit from the EU has been made, and negotiations can begin.

Maasikas told ERR’s radio news on Wednesday that with it, Mar. 29 would become an important day in European history, albeit a sad one, as no other member had left the union before.

The negotiations promise to be difficult. “For more than 40 years the United Kingdom and the EU have been very closely connected, and in the United Kingdom thousands of EU laws are in place. There is an extremely close relationship of politicians and officials across a lot of different levels. Unwinding all of this is promising to be very difficult,” Maasikas said.

The European Council is scheduled to gather in a month. In its meeting, it will approve the political framework for the European Commission to negotiate the post-Brexit relationship of the union with Britain.

“Based on this, the detailed directions for negotiations will be set and probably approved already in May. And that is what the commission has to follow representing the 27 member states,” Maasikas explained.

He added that it was extremely important that already the basic framework for the negotiations included the principles of the EU’s protection of its citizens in the United Kingdom, including the rights of Estonian citizens and businesses.

“Of course the bill has to be included in the framework, the financial obligations—and the border with Ireland, and other questions like that,” Maasikas said.

Both sides interested in a good deal

At the beginning of the negotiations would be the question how to run them at all, Maasikas said. May has said that the UK wants to negotiate an exit deal alongside future relations, so as to have everything on the table at once. “The European treaty says that the exit agreement has to be negotiated first, with an eye on future relations. And this is where more clarity is needed,” Maasikas said, adding that the extraordinary meeting of the European Council on Apr. 29 would clarify the EU’s position in the matter.

At the moment it was impossible to tell what the outcome of the negotiations would be, Maasikas said. “There is such a strong trade relationship, one of security and practical cooperation as well that was built up over 40 years. Both sides are interested in a reasonable agreement that considers all the interests involved and makes a close and good future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom possible. That is also Estonia’s goal.”

With its presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of this year, Estonia would do everything in its power to make sure that the union also continued its own work despite the Brexit negotiations.

“The EU is doing a great lot of very specific and important things for its citizens during the period of the Estonian presidency. This work is going to continue,” Maasikas said.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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