MEPs welcome unity on Brexit and call for reform of the EU

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The poll supports the view from Brussels that the Brexit negotiations should first turn on the protection of European Union citizens' rights and Britain's so-called "divorce bill" - settling what money it owes under its existing obligations, estimated at around US$67 billion.

The European Commission also confirmed that the European Council President Donald Tusk would discuss the issue of the budget and Brexit relating negotiations with new French President Emmanuel Macron later today (Thursday 18 May) in Paris.

Dealing with Brexit in a single paragraph on page 58 of the 65-page plan, the SPD says that while close security ties with the United Kingdom are important, "the most important German interest for us is to defend European unification". "If we have higher or lower environmental regulations - I now want to remain quite neutral - in the European Union and Great Britain increases or decreases its environmental regulations, then that has an impact on competitiveness and then the European Union must be free to react".

Despite the strong welcome of European unity, however, many MEPs insisted that Europeans still expected change, and that the divorce proceedings should be seen as an opportunity for reform. "This reinforces the position we took at an early stage", said Manfred Weber, EPP leader. This is a matter for the United Kingdom and we must then consider how we react to it.

"People in Europe have been shocked by the UK's decision to leave the EU".

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"Never have I seen agreement reached so quickly; this does not happen by accident", said Juncker, commenting on the speedy adoption of guidelines by the European Union 27 at a Brexit summit last month.

Michel Barnier also told lawmakers that he and they should firmly commit to refusing to launch negotiations on a future EU-UK free trade deal before seeing "significant progress" on the rights of EU nationals, the Irish border question and the settlement covering outstanding UK commitments to the EU. The figures will depend on the methodology that we have to agree on.

"We want to conclude a deal with the UK, not against the UK", Barnier told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, adding that there is not much time to conclude a good deal.

"Ensuring that the negotiations are conducted in a transparent manner will be one of the keys of their success", according to the transparency document, dated May 15, that accompanies the mandate for the European Union side of the coming talks.

But committing to keeping the public informed also shows the bloc's confidence that it already holds the upper hand before the negotiations get under way after the United Kingdom's June 8 election.

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