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Brexit: 'Imagination' needed on Irish border - EU publishes draft guidelines

Avoiding hard border crucial to peace in Northern Ireland, says EU Council President

Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow delivers British Prime Minister Theresa May's formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on March 29, 2017.
Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow delivers British Prime Minister Theresa May's formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on March 29, 2017.
Screen grabbed image taken from the Twitter feed of European Council president Donald Tusk after the letter informing the European Council of Britain's intention to leave the European Union was handed over to Mr Tusk in Brussels.
Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow delivers British Prime Minister Theresa May's formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on March 29, 2017.
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. PA Wire
A giant headed Theresa May in Parliament Square, London during a protest by Avaaz after PM signed a letter to trigger Article 50 that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. Pic: PA Wire
A picture taken on March 29, 2017 shows British flags at the UK representation to the European Union in Brussels. Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow will deliver to Brussels today the letter signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May that will launch Brexit. / AFP PHOTO / Aurore BelotAURORE BELOT/AFP/Getty Images
Sir Tim Barrow, the UK's permanent representative in Brussels arrives at his office at the UK permanent representation to the EU in Brussels Wednesday March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May will invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty later Wednesday which will begin divorce proceedings from the European Union, starting the clock on two years of intense political and economic negotiations that will fundamentally change both the nation and its European neighbors. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
Tim Barrow, the UK Permanent Representative to the EU, carries a briefcase as he arrives at the Europa building in Brussels on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a letter invoking Article 50 of the bloc's key treaty, the formal start of exit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Tim Barrow, the UK Permanent Representative to the EU, arrives at the Europa building in Brussels on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a letter invoking Article 50 of the bloc's key treaty, the formal start of exit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow leaves the UK representation to the EU Tim Barrow in Brussels on March 29, 2017. Tim Barrow will deliver to European Council President Donald Tusk the letter signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May that will launch Brexit. / AFP PHOTO / Aurore BelotAURORE BELOT/AFP/Getty Images
People from Open Britain, which campaigns for a soft Brexit in Parliament Square, London after the Prime Minister Theresa May signed a letter to trigger Article 50 that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire
A giant headed Theresa May in Parliament Square, London during a protest by Avaaz after PM signed a letter to trigger Article 50 that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire
(left to right) MPs: Nicky Morgan, Nick Clegg and Chris Leslie join members of Open Britain, which campaigns for a soft Brexit in Parliament Square, London after the Prime Minister Theresa May signed a letter to trigger Article 50 that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: British Prime Minister Theresa May departs 10 Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take the United Kingdom out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: British Prime Minister Theresa May departs 10 Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take the United Kingdom out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: A protester holds the flag of Europe during a demonstration outside of Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: Protesters hold flags of Europe and placards during a demonstration outside of Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: A protester wears a European Union flag as she takes part in a demonstration near parliament on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: A pro-EU protester carries a placard during a demonstration near parliament on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street before heading to the Houses of Parliament to attend the weekly Prime Minister's Questions. Pic: PA wire
Prime Minister Theresa May in the cabinet signs the Article 50 letter, as she prepares to trigger the start of the UK's formal withdrawal from the EU on Wednesday.

By Jonny Bell

The EU has published its draft guidelines on the strategy for Brexit saying there needs to be "imagination" on how it answers the question of the Irish border.

European Council President Donald Tusk set out the EU's draft negotiating position, making clear Britain must settle its divorce from Europe before talks can start on trade relations.

On the question of the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, Mr Tusk said: "We will seek flexible and creative solutions aiming at avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. It is of crucial importance to support the peace process in Northern Ireland."

Avoiding a hard border... crucial to peace process in Northern Ireland. Donald Tusk

 

The draft will be sent to the 27 member states for approval. They will set the tone for two years of negotiations.

Read more: Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson tells Theresa May to 'stick Brexit border where the sun doesn't shine'

Mr Tusk said: "Our duty is to minimise the uncertainty and disruption caused by the UK decision to withdraw from the EU for our citizens, businesses and Member States. As I have already said, in essence it is about damage control.

"We need to think of people first. Citizens from all over the EU live, work and study in the UK. And as long as the UK remains a member, their rights are fully protected. But we need to settle their status and situations after the withdrawal with reciprocal, enforceable and non-discriminatory guarantees.

"Second, we must prevent a legal vacuum for our companies that stems from the fact that after Brexit the EU laws will no longer apply to the UK.

"Third, we will also need to make sure that the UK honours all financial commitments and liabilities it has taken as a Member State. It is only fair towards all those people, communities, scientists, farmers and so on to whom we, all the 28, promised and owe this money. I can guarantee that the EU, on our part, will honour all our commitments.

The EU27 does not and will not pursue a punitive approach. Donald Tusk

 

"Fourth, we will seek flexible and creative solutions aiming at avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. It is of crucial importance to support the peace process in Northern Ireland.

"These four issues are all part of the first phase of our negotiations. Once, and only once we have achieved sufficient progress on the withdrawal, can we discuss the framework for our future relationship. Starting parallel talks on all issues at the same time, as suggested by some in the UK, will not happen.

"And when talking about our future relationship, we obviously share the UK's desire to establish a close partnership between us. Strong ties, reaching beyond the economy and including security cooperation, remain in our common interest.

"Let me conclude by saying that the talks which are about to start will be difficult, complex and sometimes even confrontational. There is no way around it. The EU27 does not and will not pursue a punitive approach.

"Brexit in itself is already punitive enough. After more than forty years of being united, we owe it to each other to do everything we can to make this divorce as smooth as possible.

"This is also why Prime Minister May and I have agreed to stay in close and regular contact throughout this process. I intend to visit Theresa May in London before the April European Council."

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