[WATCH] As Theresa May prepares for trade talks with Trump, EU ministers warn treaties must be respected

EU affairs ministers, meeting in Malta, insist that as long as the United Kingdom is a member state, it cannot negotiate trade deals with third party countries such as the US or Australia

EU ministers insist UK must respect EU law
EU ministers insist UK must respect EU law
Jean Asselborn, minister for European Affairs for Luxembourg
Jean Asselborn, minister for European Affairs for Luxembourg

European laws must be respected until the United Kingdom is officially out of the European Union, EU affairs ministers have told MaltaToday.

Chief among them were Luxembourg’s minister Jean Asselborn and Italy’s under-secretary for EU affairs, Sandro Gozi, who told MaltaToday that “the rules are clear” and treaties must be respected.

European Commissioner Frans Timmermans added that no trade agreements can be signed.

Ministers for EU affairs are meeting in Malta for an informal meeting of the General Affairs Council, where MaltaToday sought to elicit from the ministers how they plan on ensuring that the UK does not negotiate any trade deals with third parties like Australia and the United States.

May is expected in Washington on Friday where she will hold talks over US-UK trade deal.

“We have rules and that is clear: The UK will remain a member until we have a solution on the grounds of Article 50,” said Jean Asselborn.

“We have rules; nobody can avoid people coming together and speaking but officially it’s not possible and the Brits know it.”  

This was also echoed Sandro Gozi who said that “as long as the UK remains a member of the European Union, it must respect European law.”

First Vice-President of the Commission Frans Timmermans acknowledged that it is not possible to prevent the UK from speaking to other countries, however adding: “Everybody can talk to everyone but you can only sign a trade agreement with another country once you’ve left the European Union.”

On his part, Didier Reynders, the Belgian minister for European affairs stressed that so far, the UK has not yet triggered Article 50 and that any discussion on matters pertaining to Brexit can only start once the process has officially started.

“First of all, we are waiting for the beginning of the process. We are waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court and maybe later a vote on the bill in parliament, and if it’s possible, to receive a letter from Prime Minister Theresa May before the end of March… before that we don’t have any reason to start anything.”

The Supreme Court this morning ruled that the UK government does not have the power to trigger Article 50 without parliament’s consent.

More in Europe

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition