EU must do ‘everything possible’ to avoid hard Brexit, says Austria

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PARIS: The European Union must do “everything possible to avoid a hard Brexit,” Austria’s chancellor said on Monday ahead of a summit of EU leaders where Britain’s exit from the bloc will be top of the agenda.

EU leaders are to meet for talks on Wednesday and Thursday in Austria, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

“In Salzburg there will be two main issues on the agenda. First Brexit, there we agree we have to do everything possible to avoid a hard Brexit and to make possible that there will be a strong cooperation between the UK and the European Union,” Austria’s Sebastian Kurz said ahead of talks with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The second issue would be migration, Kurz added.

Macron added that it was “essential that we find a deal (on Brexit), that the rules of cohesion and protection of Europe, of its single market, are fully preserved while the United Kingdom respects the vote by its people.”

A so-called “hard Brexit” would entail major trade barriers being erected between Britain and the other 27 members of the EU at the end of March next year, while investors fear a “no deal” scenario in which Britain crashes out without a new trading arrangement.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking a breakthrough in talks on the Brexit divorce and the future UK-EU trading relationship during the talks in Salzburg amid deep divisions in her own political party and her country at large.