EU's Tusk says 'we don't want to build a wall' with UK


Luxembourg (AFP)

The European Union does not want to "build a wall" with Britain as it leaves the bloc, EU President Donald Tusk said Wednesday as he laid out draft guidelines for negotiations on post-Brexit ties.

Tusk said the EU wanted a free trade agreement with Britain post-Brexit with zero tariffs on goods, but he warned it would not be the "frictionless" arrangement London has angled for.

"My proposal shows that we don't want to build a wall between the EU and Britain. On the contrary the UK will be our closest neighbour and we want to remain friends and partners," Tusk told a press conference in Luxembourg.

But he said the red lines laid down by London -- that Britain must leave the EU's single market and customs union, and no longer submit to rulings by the European Court of Justice -- meant a free trade deal was the only option.

"It should come as no surprise that the only remaining possible model is a free trade agreement," Tusk said.

He said the EU would aim for an agreement "covering all sectors and with zero tariffs on goods" but said it must include access for EU fishing boats to British waters -- a highly sensitive issue for hardline Brexit supporters.

And on services -- vital to the Britain's crucial financial sector -- Tusk simply indicated the deal should "address" the issue.

"This will be the first FTA in history that loosens economic tries instead of strengthening them," Tusk said.

"Our agreement will not make trade between the UK and the EU frictionless or smoother. It will make it more complicated and costly for all of us. This is the essence of Brexit."