Settle our EU divorce terms before trade talks, May is told
Theresa May has been warned that the terms of the UK's "divorce" from Brussels will need to be agreed before trade talks can take place.
The Prime Minister hopes to conclude both the technical talks on leaving the European Union and make arrangements for a new trading partnership within the two-year deadline set out under Article 50.
European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas hinted the withdrawal agreement -which would include any amount the UK would have to pay Brussels for its existing liabilities - would have to take priority.
Meanwhile, it emerged that former prime minister Tony Blair will hold talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker today.
Asked about the sequence for Brexit talks, Mr Schinas told reporters in Brussels: "If one wants to divorce but to remain friends on the basis of a new relationship, first one needs to agree on the terms of the orderly separation.
"An orderly separation, where both sides honour their obligations, and then on the basis of this build a future new good relationship."
Mr Schinas said it was a matter for the UK Government to respond to the Supreme Court's judgment on who can trigger Article 50.
"This was a judgment decision for the UK Supreme Court to take. It's now up to the British Government, the UK, to draw the consequences from that decision.
"We are always waiting for the notification so we will not comment on issues pertaining to the internal legal and constitutional order of our member states."
He refused to be drawn on whether Article 50 could be withdrawn once notification has been given: "What will happen if and when the Article 50 notification comes will determine this and many other questions that will follow."
Welcome certainty has been provided by the British Government's determination to trigger Brexit talks by the end of March, Irish foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan said.
Downing Street has said the UK Government's defeat in an historic court battle will not derail Theresa May's plan to launch negotiations on withdrawal from the EU this spring.
Irish preparations for the "challenging" dialogue have been extensive and comprehensive, Mr Flanagan added. He said it provided "welcome certainty for the beginning" of talks.