EU Bickers Ahead of Brexit Talks

EU Bickers Ahead of Brexit Talks

BRUSSELS (AP) -- A European Union summit where 27 leaders were to solidify a united stand in the exit negotiations with Britain quickly descended into discord Thursday when the EU legislature demanded a much bigger role in the Brexit talks.

Even though the EU Parliament will have to approve any Brexit scenario at the end of the talks, the EU nations are planning to give the Commission pick Michel Barnier the chief position at the table while leaving the legislature in a minor role.

In a parliamentary proposal seen by The Associated Press, the legislature will demand a seat at the table "in all negotiation sessions." And the parliament's chief official on the Brexit talks, Guy Verhofstadt, has threatened to start parallel talks with the British.

"If the Council does not want to have the Parliament in the room, we will negotiate directly with the British," Verhofstadt said Thursday in a statement. He said the summit "seems to have forgotten that the European Parliament will have a veto over the final Brexit agreement."

EU Parliament President Martin Schulz already warned that such a rejection and subsequent veto could lead to "the very hardest of Brexits" where after a two-year period, Britain could just drop out of the EU without any political safety net.

In a draft statement for the summit dinner Thursday night which will be held without British Prime Minister Theresa May, the 27 other EU leaders will agree that Barnier "will be invited to keep the European Parliament closely and regularly informed," little more.

May, meanwhile, brushed aside concerns that she might be angered that other EU leaders are meeting without her to discuss Europe's future.

May said as she arrived at EU headquarters Thursday that Britain will trigger its exit from the bloc in March and that "it's right that the other leaders prepare for those negotiations, as we have been preparing."

"We will be leaving the EU, we want that to be a smooth and as orderly a process as possible. It's not just in our interests. It's in the interest of the rest of Europe," she said.