EU’s Brexit plans ‘unchanged’ by snap election announcement

The European Union’s Brexit plans remain unchanged by Theresa May’s snap election announcement, the council representing EU leaders has said.

The UK prime minister, who had promised not to call an election before 2020, said she planned to call a snap general election on 8 June.

But European Council President Donald Tusk’s spokesman said the 27 other EU states would forge ahead as planned.

“The UK elections do not change our EU27 plans,” Mr Tusk’s spokesman said.

He added: “We expect to have the Brexit guidelines adopted by the European Council on 29 April and following that the Brexit negotiating directives ready on 22 May. This will allow the EU27 to start negotiations.”

Mr Tusk and Mrs May have had a “good” conversation on the phone following the announcement, the council president tweeted.

Using his personal account, Mr Tusk also tweeted: “It was Hitchcock, who directed Brexit: first an earthquake and the tension rises.”

Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, leaves after meeting BritainDonald Tusk, seen here leaving 10 Downing Street earlier in April, said he had a “good” call with Mrs May

An EU official and spokesman for the negotiating team told the BBC that they were hopeful the outcome may even improve negotiations.

“This is a domestic matter for the UK. But we have some hope that this will lead to a strong leader in London that can negotiate with us with strong backing by the electorate,” they said.

“This does not change things. We are ready. Early June was always the calendar.”

Watching closely: Kevin Connolly, BBC News, Brussels

The European Union won’t have much to say on the record about Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election – the UK is still a member state after all and it’s not the done thing to comment on internal political manoeuvrings.

But no British election campaign will ever have been watched quite so closely from Brussels.

That’s not because Mrs May, if she wins, will have a clear personal mandate for her vision of Brexit. The European side would always have assumed that whoever was in Number 10 had the authority to negotiate for the UK.

It’s more because they expect to learn a lot about Mrs May’s vision for Brexit in the heat of campaigning – and also about the visions of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the other parties who’ll make their presence felt.

Romantics in Europe will certainly hope that Britain’s “remainers” will do everything they can to shape the debate and raise their voices against the prospect of a Hard Brexit.

But however the British debate goes there’ll be a feeling in Brussels that when the campaign is over a great deal more will be known about the UK’s negotiating position, and most importantly where its red lines will lie.

Others were less positive.

Belgian MEP Tom Vandenkendelaere, of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) grouping, tweeted: “Understandable choice to strengthen negotiation mandate for #Brexit, but at the same time huge gamble and risk of even greater instability.”

In Russia, meanwhile, the Kremlin has said it has “no particular interest” in the election.

“No, there is no particular interest in it. Just, let’s say, ordinary monitoring of the international situation. It is no business of ours,” presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.

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