June 22, 2017 / 1:24 PM / a month ago

Highlights - Brexit, trade dominate EU leaders' meeting

8 Min Read

European Council President Donald Tusk meets with Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven in Brussels, Belgium June 22, 2017.Eric Vidal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders are meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday to discuss a broad range of issues from defence and security, to Brexit, trade, climate and migration.

Below please find comments by the leaders arriving for talks on Thursday.

***Brexit***

European Council President Donald Tusk

"The Brexit negotiations started 3 days ago. It is a most difficult process, for which the EU is well prepared."

"Some of my British friends have even asked me whether Brexit could be reversed, and whether I could imagine an outcome where the UK stays part of the EU. I told them that in fact the European Union was built on dreams that seemed impossible to achieve. So, who knows? You may say I'm a dreamer, but I am not the only one."

British Prime Minister Theresa May

"That was a very constructive start to those negotiations, but it's also about how we will build a future special and deep partnership with our friends and allies in Europe."

"What I'm going to be setting out today is clearly how the United Kingdom proposes to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and see the rights of UK citizens in Europe protected."

"That's been an important issue, we've wanted it to be one of the early issues that was considered in the negotiations. That is now the case. That work is starting."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

"I want to state clearly that the shaping of the future of the 27 has priority over the negotiations with Britain over its exit.

"We will conduct these talks in a good spirit. But the clear focus has to be on the future of the 27."

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

"As far as I know the British government is firmly committed to translating into reality the wish of the British people. We are starting negotiations. They will be pursued in a normal way."

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar

"What's much more important than the timetable is the outcome. I would much rather that we have a good deal for Ireland in time than one that doesn't work for is in a shorter period."

"When it comes to issues related to the border, the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, it will be difficult to determine the final shape of that until we know what the new trade arrangements are between the United Kingdom and the EU."

"Our objective is a very clear one, it's a very simple one - that there should not be an economic border between Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland."

"While Britain says that they want to leave the customs union and intend to leave the single market, they also say that they want a free trade agreement and many of the elements of free trade agreement, while not being the same as the customs union, may not be that far from it."

Lithuania President Dalia Grybauskaite

"We will deal with anybody who will come from Britain because for us Britain stays a friend and an ally and we will negotiate with Britain as with a friend and an ally."

"It's a pity that this decision was made but we cannot turn and look only backwards. We need to think about the future and the sooner we settle the future, the better for both."

"For us it's important to respect the rights, including social rights, of our citizens in Britain, the same as we would like to reciprocally guarantee for British citizens in the European Union, the same rights they have today."

"For us the cut-off date is not so important, we would like to have no discrimination neither before nor after the cut-off date."

"We would like to have a different situation, but it's the right of Britain to decide on how much they will be involved and use the European judiciary."

Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives at a EU leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 22, 2017.Julien Warnand/Pool

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel

"She (Theresa May) is not stronger but it was a choice to organise elections and now they have internal fights."

"This is a question to be resolved in London, not here in Brussels. For the moment we have one partner here, it's Theresa May, and I hope that we will be able to continue the work."

"The UK decision is something we have to respect, we regret it, the door is still open. If they want, if the government wants to, when they see now all the consequences of Brexit."

"I am not dreaming about situations but it's the decision of the UK government to take. Maybe when they see now all the consequences... What was so "easy" and without consequences is not the story. So we are waiting now."

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel

"It's time for action and certainty. Not for dreams and uncertainty."

"I am not a dreamer and I'm not the only one. I consider we have to respect the choice of the UK and we have to negotiate and we will see how it is possible to keep smart cooperation on the different issues, for development, for trade, but also of course for security."

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"I realise Theresa May is in a very difficult situation in terms of leadership so we will have to see what position Great Britain will defend in the coming months but it is for Great Britain to make its decision about its membership of the EU and we should not just speculate on this. We can speculate, but it is a waste of time."

"Two days ago, the British negotiator was supporting a hard Brexit but I'm not naive. There are some in her own camp who are for a soft Brexit. We must see how the situation develops."

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte

"It is crucially important now that we know what Great Britain wants from Brexit. I hope obviously that we will come to some form of continued membership or relation with the internal market, with the customs union."

"I think it's in the interest of jobs in the United Kingdom. I am absolutely convinced United Kingdom will be hit, it's economy, the position of the pound, very hard."

"It will have a huge economic impact. I think if there is a continued link to the internal market, to the customs union in one form or another - including accepting that it also means courts in Luxembourg, the four freedoms - if we could come to something like that, I am hopeful."

"But it all depends of course on what Theresa May and her team will decide."

"My dream would be that in this Brexit process we would come to this end state, or maybe an intermediate end-state for the coming years, in which the United Kingdom will stay connected to the internal market."

"I hate Brexit from every angle. But this is a sovereign decision by the British people and I can't argue with democracy."

***Trade***

French President Emmanuel Macron

"I hope that in this area we can also have a Europe that is open to free trade and our values, but that protects when others do not respect certain rules."

"The control of certain foreign direct investments in sensitive areas is mentioned. We are asking the Commission to work on it. The issue of modernisation of our trade instruments is made very clear. That's something I really care about."

"There is also a reference to fair reciprocity, in particular on the opening of certain markets. All this goes in the right direction, that of an opening, but a reasoned opening."

***Security***

Eu's Top Diplomat Federica Mogherini

"I expect from the leaders to give a further impules to our work, especially on establishing the Permanent Structured Cooperation on the European defence, and the use of our battlegroups."

"This is one of the areas where our European Union project can be relaunched and I expect strong leadership from our heads of states and governments to give a further impulse."

Reporting by Brussels Newsroom

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