A group of British politicians slammed Brussels for refusing to kick-start talks on the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU). Until these talks begin, millions of British and European citizens living abroad remain anxious and uncertain about their future, they note.
The EU has hit back. In an extraordinary letter to British parliamentarians, the president of the European council, Donald Tusk, stated the UK was entirely to blame for these anxieties and uncertainties.
“In your letter you state that the European commission, and in particular [Michel] Barnier, are attempting to prevent negotiations, thereby creating ‘anxiety and uncertainty for the UK and EU citizens living in one another’s territories’,” he wrote.“It is a very interesting argument; the only problem being that it had nothing to do with reality.”
Tusk suggests the only source for these anxieties and uncertainty is Britain’s decision to leave the EU. He pointed out that the rights British politicians are calling on the EU to guarantee—the free movement of people—was largely rejected by Britain, which voted for Brexit. Tusk reaffirmed that the EU will not begin negotiations until Britain invokes Article 50; the legal process that starts a country’s withdrawal from the EU.
The initial letter to Tusk was signed by 80 British MPs, including leading members of the leave campaign Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith, which called on the EU to discuss the issue of reciprocal rights before Article 50 was invoked. But since voting to leave the EU, British calls for preparatory talks have largely been ignored.
The EU has remained so resolute to avoid any discussions that Brexit was down as “any other business” in the last European Council meeting. British prime minister Theresa May was only allowed to give a “short update on Brexit” during coffee after a working dinner. European leaders were not allowed to respond to what she said.
May announced that the government would trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017, but a high court decision has since complicated her proposed timeline. The UK’s High Court has ruled that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without a vote in Parliament.