EU Council President Donald Tusk insisted Thursday there would be no talks with Britain before London triggers the divorce process, saying he wants to “protect the interests” of the bloc’s remaining members.
Tusk added that in the wake of the Brexit vote, the 27 EU leaders who are meeting without Britain in Slovakia on September 16 must focus on “security” at a time of other problems including the migration crisis.
Speaking after talks with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, Tusk said the Bratislava summit would study life after Brexit but would not discuss a negotiating strategy for a future relationship with Britain.
“Our position is crystal clear: there will be no negotiations without notification,” Tusk told reporters.
“This principle is enshrined in our treaties. And it is there for a reason: to protect the interests of the members of the union that want to stay together, not the one which decides to leave,” the former Polish premier added.
“Therefore, we shall not give up on this principle.”
His comments came after European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told AFP in an interview published Thursday that British politicians should “get their act together” on their Brexit demands.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will not trigger Article 50 — the formal notification which starts a two-year negotiating period before Britain leaves the EU — until next year at the earliest.
Tusk meanwhile said the remaining 27 should focus on security post-Brexit, amid growing calls from eastern EU members for a joint army.
“It is my deep conviction that our priority should be to take back full control in the field of internal security, and on our external borders,” Tusk said.
“It is not an accident that this issue, together with migration, was at the forefront of the referendum campaign in the UK.”
His comments echo the emphasis that the EU’s “big three leaders” — Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Francois Hollande and Italy’s Matteo Renzi — put on security when they met aboard an Italian aircraft carrier on August 22.