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#Brexit: Maio ofrece fermosas palabras da UE, pero empurra os intereses británicos

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Theresa May’s Brexit letter to European Union President Donald Tusk will please EU leaders by sounding constructive and acknowledging Britain must settle obligations before leaving. But the prime minister also made some tougher demands, escribe Alastair Macdonald.

No documento de seis páxinas entregado o mércores á cadeira da Cumbre da UE para provocar unha conta atrás de dous anos para a retirada, pediu negociacións paralelas non só aos termos do divorcio senón un novo pacto comercial e acordos especiais en sectores clave. Tamén fixo unha ameaza velada sobre a cooperación en materia de seguridade se as conversas se rompen.

“We should engage with one another constructively and respectfully, in a spirit of sincere cooperation,” May wrote.

She referred — twice — to London’s “obligations as a departing member state”, in a nod to Brussels’ demands that a “Brexit bill”, possibly of the order of €60 billion be paid to cover outstanding commitments before Britain leaves.

She echoed the EU’s own language in acknowledging that there could be “no cherry-picking” to retain the best bits of EU membership and acknowledged that Britons doing business with the Union would have to abide by rules they no longer help to set.

In response, the other 27 governments said Britain could be a “close partner”: “We will approach these talks constructively and strive to find an agreement,” they said in a statement.

Some of May’s demands, however, run counter to what at least some of them want, setting up the kind of disagreements among the 27 that Britain may exploit, despite Tusk’s call for unity.

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Os negociadores da UE din que queren, na medida do posible, acordar un tratado de retirada, se é posible ata o final deste ano, antes de iniciar negociacións sobre o tratado de libre comercio que quere Gran Bretaña. Pero maio deixou claro que as negociacións comerciais deberían comezar agora.

“We believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal,” she wrote.

Practicamente, os funcionarios da UE recoñecen que os elementos da retirada, como os acordos sobre a nova fronteira entre o Reino Unido e a UE e sobre todo na fronteira terrestre de toda a illa de Irlanda, non poden resolverse sen unha idea das futuras relacións comerciais.

But they want to resist getting too deeply into that until Britain has settled other issues, including the bill, but also how to treat the four million Europeans who will find themselves living as foreigners on either side of the new cross-Channel frontier — something May agreed was a priority.

May also suggests quickly opening “technical talks” on how to avoid disrupting key economic sectors that are closely intertwined, mentioning finance and “network industries”, a term for sectors with strong linkages to other ones.

EU negotiators, determined to avoid giving Britain such a sweet deal that Brexit could encourage imitators, want to avoid moving quickly to cutting special agreements on certain sectors – though they acknowledge that is likely to happen eventually.

May’s acknowledgment that two years is a tight schedule for negotiating all she wants will be welcomed in Brussels. She said it was likely that to avoid a disruptive “cliff-edge” of changed regulations any deal would need “implementation periods” beyond 2019. That echoes EU assumptions of a “transition phase”.

Tamén moitizando co pensamento continental, co risco de desagradar a algúns dos seus propios seguidores na casa, tamén dixo que as negociacións terían que analizar como se resolverían as disputas comerciais. Escapar da xurisdición dos tribunais da UE foi unha demanda esencial dos activistas do Brexit, pero a UE insistirá en que Gran Bretaña estea suxeita a algunha supervisión externa se quere o libre comercio.

One section of May’s letter, echoing a passage of a speech on the Brexit proposals in January, may hit a sour note. Though she did not repeat the same “no deal is better than a bad deal” language, she explicitly referred to the possibility that Britain may leave on March 29, 2019 “without an agreement”.

That, she suggested, would be fine in London because it could “default” to trading under World Trade Organization rules. But, she added, it would weaken Britain’s co-operation against “crime and terrorism”. When she said as much in January, that was seen as an unwelcome threat – if perhaps an empty one – to deprive the EU of the undoubted prowess of British intelligence.

Tusk’s response assured Britain of cooperation to ensure an “orderly exit”. But he too offered a hard edge. Negotiations were about “damage control”, he said. But in the end, he and the EU negotiators would “protect the interests of the 27”.

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