European Council President Donald Tusk said in a letter Friday that the European Union’s Brexit  negotiations with the United Kingdom should initially focus on guarantees for EU nationals in the U.K., the U.K.’s financial obligations to the EU and preventing the establishment of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The letter was sent to European Council members a day before EU officials will meet to adopt guidelines for the EU’s Brexit negotiations, and Tusk repeated that the EU will focus on negotiating the U.K.’s departure from the EU before it begins talks on the EU and U.K.’s future relationship. “Before discussing our future, we must first sort out our past,” he said.

Key Points: 

  • Among his priorities, Tusk called for “effective, enforceable, non-discriminatory and comprehensive” guarantees for EU nationals in the U.K. The U.K. has said that it would like a reciprocal agreement to guarantee the status of U.K. nationals in the EU and EU nationals in the U.K., but has thus far been unwilling to make a unilateral guarantee.
  • Tusk’s remarks were broadly in line with previous statements he and other EU officials have made since the U.K. invoked Article 50 on March 29, though earlier this week EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom reportedly said that the EU would “of course” reach a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom after the U.K. officially leaves the bloc. Tusk indicated that this is not a priority for the time being.
  • The U.K. has pushed back against the idea of a “phased” approach to negotiations, hoping instead to begin talks on future relations sooner. Prime Minister Theresa May recently called for an early election, hoping to consolidate support as the U.K. prepares for Brexit negotiations. 

BAL Analysis: While negotiations have not yet formally begun, Tusk’s letter offers an indication of the line of negotiation that the EU is likely to pursue. The EU and U.K. both appear interested in an agreement that would protect the status of EU and U.K. nationals in the U.K. and EU, though no guarantees have been made yet. The EU’s positioning speaks to the concerns businesses and EU nationals have about the future status of EU nationals in the U.K., as immigration continues to be at the heart of Brexit talks.

BAL will continue to follow Brexit-related immigration developments and keep clients informed on key developments.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact

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