No "a la carte" Brexit menu for Britain, top EU official says

Britain will be not be allowed to pick and choose benefits when it negotiates a British exit from the European Union, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said Friday.

Any arrangement other than full EU membership "necessarily entails trade-offs" and "there will be no a la carte menu" for Britain, Schulz said in a speech at the London School of Economics.

The remaining 27 EU member states have agreed to meet in Malta on February 3 to discuss the bloc's future without Britain, diplomats in Brussels said late Thursday.

Schulz said the Brexit vote was "a loud and clear warning signal for the EU as a whole to reform ... [but] it was not a vote to end the EU."

Britain and the other EU nations all "want to make the best of this unfortunate hand of cards" following the British vote to leave the union, he said following talks late Thursday with Prime Minister Theresa May.

The EU parliament president said he "sees a clear majority in the European Parliament for insisting that the fundamental freedoms are inseparable, ie, no freedom of movement for goods, capital and services, without free movement of persons."

"I refuse to imagine a Europe where lorries and hedge funds are free to cross borders but citizens cannot," Schulz said. "I cannot accept any hierarchy between these four freedoms."

Former chancellor George Osborne, a close ally of ex-prime minister David Cameron in the campaign for Britain to remain in the EU, warned on Thursday that no one should "assume that there is an off-the-shelf [Brexit] arrangement that works for the second-largest economy in Europe."

The British government is unlikely to accept the EU's rules on free movement of people, which "clearly caused such concern in the referendum," Osborne said in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

"Equally, I find some of the take-or-leave-it bravado we hear from those who assume Europe has no option but to give us everything we want more than a little naive," he added.

"We need to be realistic that this is a two-way relationship: that Britain cannot expect to maintain all the benefits that came from EU membership without incurring any of the costs or the obligations," Osborne said.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and other members of May's cabinet have suggested that Britain's strong trade with EU nations could enable it to retain access to the EU single market while restricting freedom of movement, but Schulz appeared to rule out that possibility.

Schulz reiterated his call for Britain to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - which sets the rules for a two-year negotiating process for a nation leaving the EU - as soon as possible.

May has said she will not trigger Article 50 this year, but she is expected to do so early in 2017.

A narrow majority of British voters opted to leave the European Union in the June 23 referendum.

Last update: Fri, 23/09/2016 - 19:40
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