Negotiator denies United Kingdom is blackmailing European Union on security

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The European Union is willing to hold trade talks before Brexit but only if there is "significant progress" on the "divorce" negotiations, including its outstanding bills being settled, draft EU guidelines released on Friday show.

"These are draft guidelines and we look forward to beginning negotiations once they have been formally agreed by the 27 member states", a United Kingdom government spokesman said Friday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the United Kingdom would remain a "close and committed ally".

Although the issue sounds technical, it could have a crucial bearing on the outcome as Britain is likely to have less leverage in the trade talks if it has already agreed how much it is going to have to pay to leave the EU.

And critics pointed to the Council's firm rejection of British pleas for parallel trade and divorce talks and sector-by-sector deals on access to the single market.

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Muscat said that the European Union had "reassurances from the British government" and insisted on the need for a "sincere spirit of cooperation".

Legally, a trade deal can not be signed until Britain has left and many on both sides believe that, going by typical times to negotiate such accords, it will take several years beyond 2019 before one is in place.

Mr Tusk said that the Article 50 withdrawal negotiations were essentially a matter of "damage control" and would be "difficult, complex and sometimes even confrontational".

European officials suggested enough progress could be made on the divorce arrangements by the end of the year to begin trade talks, although EU leaders will have the final say.

"Converting EU law into United Kingdom law. will mean that as we seek a comprehensive new economic partnership with the EU, our allies will know that we start from a position where we have the same standards and rules".

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The guidelines also say the issue of citizens living in each other's countries is a priority, and call for "flexible and imaginative solutions" for the issue of the U.K.'s land border with Ireland.

After narrowly voting to leave the EU in June, British politicians haven't had many nice things to say about their European partners.

The draft proposals to be outlined by Mr Tusk are expected to include other crucial details, such as the sequencing of talks, in particular whether separation talks must be concluded before negotiators can move on to discuss Britain's future relationship with the EU.

Meanwhile there was continued irritation over Mrs May's apparent attempts to link continued security co-operation with a new trade deal.

The proposals, presented to Parliament by Brexit Secretary David Davis, will also allow lawmakers to undertake the mammoth task of keeping, altering or ditching the thousands of European Union statutes that now apply to the U.K.as soon as the country formally withdraws.

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"The EU 27 does not and will not pursue a punitive approach".

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