Some in EU want UK to suffer for Brexit, Gramegna says
Some countries in the European Union want the UK to suffer for its decision to withdraw from the bloc, expected to happen in 2019, Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna told Bloomberg Television.
"There are certainly a few, whom I am not going to name, who want to punish the UK because their people have decided to leave," Gramegna told the broadcaster. "We think that is not the right approach. I would say the majority of countries think we have to find a solution. We have to make sure that even after Brexit the business relationship is good."
In a speech in Florence on September 22, UK Prime Minister Theresa May rejected the "stark and unimaginative" choices of Britain striking a free trade agreement with the EU, similar to the bloc's deal with Canada, or European Economic Area membership which governs EU trade with Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
The former, she said, would fall short of what exists between the EU and UK today and be "a restriction on our mutual market access." The latter would mean taking on new EU rules and "a loss of democratic control."
Michel Barnier, the lead EU Brexit negotiator said in Luxembourg on Tuesday that the "sufficient progress" needed to take discussions to where the UK would like them may only come in December.
The bloc wants to settle terms of the so-called divorce, specifically how much Britain will pay for commitments made before it leaves, citizens' rights and Northern Ireland's border with the Republic, which will become the only UK/EU land frontier. Only then will trade and the post-Brexit relationship -- which the UK wants talked about now -- be discussed.
Britons voted in a referendum on June 23, 2016, to leave the EU.
May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in March to set off the two-year negotiation process to complete talks about the terms of the exit.
Unity within the EU has strengthened, Gramegna said, citing the effects of Brexit and the election of Emmanuel Macron as French president.
He "brings a lot of energy in saying we need to integrate more, you need to be more efficient, whatever it takes," Gramegna said in the interview broadcast by Bloomberg on Tuesday. "We have a window of opportunity now which Luxembourg definitely wants to support."
"To be successful you need to reach out and you need to be open for trade, open for investment, open to citizens," Gramegna said.
(Alistair Holloway, firstname.lastname@example.org, +352 49 93 739)