European Union chief Tusk stresses citizen's rights in Brexit talks

Belfast. The long goodbye from the UK begins in Brussels on Saturday

As EU leaders continued to discuss Brexit issues, a spokesman for Mr Tusk confirmed there had been no changes to the draft guidelines.

Meeting for the first time since British Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered a two-year countdown to Brexit in late March, the 27 other European Union leaders will lose little time over a lunch in Brussels in approving an eight page set of negotiating guidelines hammered out by their diplomats over the past month.

They greeted the decision with applause, officials said.

The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of Britain, is also a problem given the peace process there.

Rights for European citizens living in post-Brexit UK are the EU's number one priority in forthcoming negotiations, Donald Tusk has signalled. Much is beyond May's power, and depends on whether the remaining 27 European Union states will offer outlines of such a deal on attractive enough terms. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker complained Saturday that the United Kingdom is now blocking the EU's long-term budget plans.

Even with goodwill from both sides, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, the author of the Article 50 clause, has said that there is at least a one in three chance that no overall agreement will emerge.

Talks with Britain will begin shortly after its general elections on June 8.

"Before discussing our future, we must first sort out our past", he said.

"So this will take time and if we want to be precise and to deliver guarantees to citizens, this will take a huge amount of time, although as a Commission and as Michel Barnier, we have already prepared a text which could be adopted immediately if our British friends would be ready to sign it like that, that will probably not happen".

EU Council President Donald Tusk says that Britain will face a united bloc of 27 EU nations in the two years of divorce negotiations and said the welfare of citizens and families living in each other's nations will be the priority once the talks start.

"I sometimes feel some people in Britain, and I don't mean the government, are not so clear on the idea that there is an exit phase and then a phase on the future relationship", she said.

Ireland's Europe Minister Dara Murphy told The Associated Press that a statement on the Northern Ireland issue was added to the minutes of the summit, which is being held without Prime Minister Theresa May.

The EU has remained resolutely opposed to parallel talks, and Mr Tusk repeated the hard line in his open letter to the 27 leaders.

"Businesses are suffering a lack of certainty, great confusion, and complete lack of clarity about the timeframes for Brexit", he said. "It could be show of force".

Unwonted unity has been forged by the shock of Brexit; it breaks a taboo and raises fears of further break-up at the hands of nationalists like French far-right leader Marine Le Pen. She will contest France's presidential election run-off on May 7, though few expect her to beat centrist Emmanuel Macron.

"Britain should not have advantages after the exit, that other countries don't have".

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel warned against falling into a "trap" where Britain divided the bloc to its advantage. Also contentious will be which countries scoop the prizes of hosting two European Union agencies set to be moved from London.

European leaders have agreed they will take a joint position during Brexit negotiations with the UK.

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