, STRASBOURG, France, Oct 4 – The European Parliament will vote on its “negotiating lines” for Britain’s exit from the EU after London triggers the divorce process next year, its Brexit pointman said Tuesday.
Former Belgian premier Guy Verhofstadt welcomed Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement at the weekend that Britain will start negotiations by the end of March but said there could be “no pre-negotiations”.
“Negotiations can only start after the trigger of Article 50,” he said at the parliament in Strasbourg, referring to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU’s divorce clause which then launches a two-year negotiation period.
He was echoing other EU institutions which have also said there can be no advance talks.
Verhofstadt, a Liberal politician who was appointed parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator last month, said lawmakers would look at EU law in coming months before voting on a resolution on the issue.
“In this resolution parliament will express its negotiation lines,” he said, adding that it would be “after March, April, (and) before the European Council (summit)” in late June 2017.
The European Parliament will eventually have a final decision on any Brexit deal.
Verhofstadt insisted there could be no compromise that allowed Britain to introduce curbs on the migration of EU citizens while allowing the country access to the bloc’s tariff-free single market.
He said he that hoped the negotiations could be concluded by European elections in May 2019 so that the EU could “have a fresh new start”, adding that it would be “strange” for Britain to be involved in those elections when it was leaving.
The MEP said EU-British ties “must remain close”, adding that it was “especially” important for the 48 percent of Britons who voted to remain in the EU in Britain’s referendum on June 23.