Britain, EU should work together for smooth divorce: UK PM May

UK premier says will not trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to start the exit procedure this year

Published: Updated:

Britain and the European Union should work together to smooth their divorce and forge a new strong relationship, Prime Minister Theresa May told European Council President Donald Tusk on Thursday.

May’s spokeswoman said that the two leaders’ first meeting since she became prime minister following the June 23 Brexit vote was friendly and that the British leader felt the EU understood her need to take time to form a negotiating stance before triggering the formal divorce procedure.

“The main points that the prime minister made were about working together so that there was a smooth process for the UK leaving the European Union, that is why we are taking time to prepare for the negotiations,” the spokeswoman told reporters.

May also told Tusk that Britain would be a “strong player” while it remained in the European Union, and would continue to stand firm on sanctions against Russia over its action in neighbouring Ukraine.

Tusk said Britain should start talks, adding weight to calls for Prime Minister May to get on with the formal divorce procedure.

Tusk and May are keen to discuss what steps might be taken over the next few months.

May has said Britain will not trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to start the exit procedure this year to give her government time to come up with a negotiating stance for the complicated talks that will shape the country's future standing.

"Our goal (is) to establish closest possible EU-UK relations. Ball in UK court to start negotiations. In everybody's best interest to start ASAP (as soon as possible)," Tusk said on Twitter.

October meeting agenda

On Wednesday, May's spokeswoman said the two leaders would not only talk about Britain's exit, or "Brexit", but would also discuss issues on the agenda for the October meeting of EU leaders, suggesting that Britain still plans to play a role.

May has said she will not show her hand before starting the Brexit talks, giving few details of what her government wants when it leaves the EU.

She says reducing immigration into Britain is crucial after millions of Britons expressed their frustration in the vote over what they say is the stress on schools, hospitals and housing from high numbers of people settling in the country.

But May, a former interior minister who was in charge of the ruling Conservative Party's immigration policy, also says she wants the best trade deal for Britain, refusing to say whether the country will remain in the EU's lucrative single market.

Trade Minister Liam Fox suggested that Britain was moving forward with plans to develop ties with countries outside the EU, telling parliament that the government had set up a working group with India.