October 16, 2017 / 2:57 PM / in 3 years

EU maintains summit gesture to May, with conditions

European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders will agree this week to start preparing internally for talks with Britain on a post-Brexit transition, according to a new draft summit statement that spells out conditions which London must meet before negotiations start.

The draft, seen by Reuters on Monday, was circulated by summit chair Donald Tusk to the 27 other member governments for discussion by ministers on Tuesday, ahead of a summit with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday and Friday.

Following objections from heavyweight powers Germany and France to a first draft last week, the text somewhat hardens up the requirement that London meet conditions set by the EU and softens any suggestion that it is a foregone conclusion that leaders will agree to launch trade talks in December.

However, it retains an instruction for EU officials to “start internal preparatory discussions” on how the EU would negotiate a transition and future trade relationship. That, officials say, could save weeks of delay if a December summit does indeed give a green light to a second phase of talks.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; editing by Foo Yun Chee

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