Britain and the European Union must work together to make their divorce smooth and forge a new “strong relationship”, Prime Minister Theresa May has told European Council President Donald Tusk.
At their first one-to-one meeting since May became prime minister after Britain voted to leave the European Union at a June 23 referendum, Tusk said the British leader should start the formal procedure to leave the bloc as soon as possible.
But a spokeswoman said May felt little pressure, having won the agreement of EU officials to take at least until the end of this year to come up with a negotiating stance for the talks that will shape Britain’s relationship with Europe and its future standing in the world.
“The main points that the prime minister made were about working together so that there was a smooth process for the UK leaving the European Union, that is why we are taking time to prepare for the negotiations,” the spokeswoman told reporters.
“We want to see a strong European Union that we can have a strong relationship with once we have left.”
Over breakfast, the two leaders agreed that Britain would have “a strong voice” in the EU while it was still a member and that it would stand firm on sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.
May has given little away on what she wants when Britain leaves the EU, saying she will not show her hand before Britain triggers Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty to start the exit procedure. That will not happen this year, she says.
But Tusk who, as head of the European Council, leads the body that defines the bloc’s political direction and priorities, said on Twitter that it was “in everybody’s best interest to start ASAP (as soon as possible).”