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EU’s Juncker, Barnier to Visit Britain’s May Next Week | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech to Conservative Party members to launch their election campaign in Walmsley Parish Hall, Bolton, Britain April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Yates

European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will hold talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London next Wednesday to assess the upcoming two years of negotiations which were triggered by Britain on March 29.

“President Juncker will travel to London at the invitation of Prime Minister May to discuss the process of the Article 50 negotiations between the EU 27 represented by the commission and the United Kingdom,” commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told reporters Thursday.

Barnier, who is the EU’s chief negotiator for Britain’s exit from the 28-nation bloc, and Juncker’s chief of staff Martin Selmayr would accompany Juncker for the talks at Downing Street.

The announcement of the visit comes just two days after May unveiled plans to hold a snap general election in Britain on June 8 in what she hopes will give her a “mandate to complete Brexit”.

EU leaders will meet in Brussels on April 29 to formally approve guidelines for the negotiations.

Britain voted to leave the EU last June and May formally triggered Article 50 — the EU’s divorce clause — on March 29, beginning what are set to be two years of difficult negotiations before Britain finally leaves.

Barnier is expected to get a formal mandate to begin talks on May 22 although they are not now expected to begin in earnest until after the British election.

Meanwhile, EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said negotiations with Britain would be difficult.

“They will have to dismantle their belonging to a community. We will lose an important member state,” she told students at the elite Tsinghua University during a visit to Bejing.

“Let me tell you that to me all member states are important, equally, because one can be contributing more on some policies than others. But I think our British friends will lose more than what we lose,” she said.

“It’s clear in our treaties that it is two years, only two years, from when the negotiations start, that was March this year. This cannot be delayed. I do not expect that it will be faster than that,” Mogherini said.

China has looked on with some concern at the Brexit process, nervous about instability in the bloc that is China’s largest trading partner. It will lose around a sixth of its economic output when Britain leaves the EU.

“The European Union, even after the UK will be out, will continue to be the first market in the world, the second largest economy in the world,” Mogherini said.

“I am seeing all our partners in these months telling us that the European Union is needed, and this is the message I also get from here in China that the European Union is an indispensable partner in the world today,” she said.