European Union presses Britain to 'face up to hard facts' on Brexit

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and EU Council president Donald Tusk hold a press conference at Government Buildings in Dublin. Credit Niall Carson  PA Wire

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Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness has been speaking ahead of the European Parliament debating a resolution on future relations between the EU and United Kingdom after Brexit.

The debate and vote (on Wednesday) come ahead of the 22-23 March EU summit in Brussels where EU heads of state or government are expected to approve the Council's guidelines for the future relationship negotiations.

"The time will come when you regret your decision", the president of the European Commission said, as Nigel Farage laughed and shook his head in disbelief.

However, Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out keeping Britain in an EU customs union because it would prevent the country from striking its own trade deals with fast-growing economies such as China and India.

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said the European Union was trying to "bully" Britain.

Mr Juncker told MEPs in Strasbourg there was "increasing urgency" to negotiate the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

Juncker added: "I would rather have preferred for Britons not to decide to leave the European Union but anyone who leaves the EU has to know frankly what this means".

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The EU and Britain are hoping to seal a deal this month on a transition period after Brexit, and start talks on their future relationship this spring.

"We have to guarantee the integrity of the single market because citizens and companies have to be able to count on the same kind of rules for citizens and companies and cherry picking is not going to be possible". "For us this is not an Irish issue, it is a European issue", he said.

"If you decide to jettison, leave behind, the common agreements and rules, then you have to accept that things can not remain as they are".

Companies in Britain and the European Union face an extra 58 billion pounds ($80 billion) in annual costs if there is a no-deal Brexit, with Britain's vast financial sector set to be the worst-hit industry, according to a report on March 12.

But former UKIP leader Nigel Farage argued that Mrs May should channel US President Donald Trump when she meets European Union leaders next week.

The European Parliament's Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt said talks he held with May and her Brexit minister David Davis last week had left him confident London would "see the advantages of such an approach".

Mr Batten said: "The Commission wants unconditional surrender and Mrs May will settle for conditional surrender".

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