Wider Europe

Current: Brexit crisis

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Germany and France have dashed British hopes of fast-tracking talks on a two-year post-Brexit transition deal, insisting that the UK’s EU divorce bill should be resolved first.

British officials had hoped that EU leaders would jump-start negotiations at a high-profile Brussels summit in two weeks by approving the opening of talks on a transition period after Britain’s exit in 2019, which Theresa May proposed in her Florence address last month. But, according to European diplomats, a Germany-led group of EU countries has demanded more clarity on the long-term financial commitments Britain will honour. The UK insists it will only do this once the shape of its future relationship with the EU is clear, including a transition period.

Berlin’s tough stance will be of particular concern to London, coming just a week after Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, met Mrs May to discuss Brexit and her Florence speech, which offered to use transition payments to cover an EU budget shortfall of at least €20bn.The setback comes amid further signs that post-Florence hopes of a smoother Brexit are beginning to fade.

Recent: European events

In June 2016, a referendum arranged by the UK Parliament was held on the country's membership of the EU. The result was 52% in favour of leaving and 48% in favour of remaining, with a turnout of 72%. Withdrawal from the EU has been a right of EU member states since 2007 under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The process for the UK's withdrawal is uncertain under EU law. Article 50, which governs the withdrawal, has never been used before. Unless extensions are agreed, the timing for leaving under the article is two years from when Britain gives official notice, but this is unlikely to be given immediately. The assumption is that during the two year window new agreements will be negotiated, but there is no requirement that there be new agreements.

The ongoing refugee crisis worsened as Russia became more deeply involved in supporting the Assad regime inside Syria against its opponents.

Lithuania joined the euro on 1 January 2015, one year after Latvia.

Croatia became the 28th member state of the European Union on 1 July 2013.

On 29 June 2012, Montenegro started EU accession negotiations, barely six years after declaring independence, overtaking Macedonia on the EU accession path.

Serbia was granted candidate status on 1 March 2012, following its application for EU membership in 2009. Negotiations started in January 2014

The EU is reopening membership talks with Turkey, more than three years after freezing negotiations, in an attempt to boost the prospects for democratic reforms.

Lampedusa - closer to Tunisia than Sicily - has become the gateway into the EU for migrants escaping unrest and civil war in the Middle East and Africa.

Brussels now fears there is a 'poverty trap' for half of Europe as the North-South gap widens. Some 19m people are seeking employment across the eurozone.

Greece offers a residence permit to foreigners who buy property valued at €250,000. A non-EU national who buys a €500,000 house in Portugal can gain citizenship after six years. A foreigner who invests £1m in a UK company today can apply for permanent residence five years from now, but must be resident in the UK for six months in each of those years. Malta has declared it will sell a Maltese passport to anyone who pays €650,000.

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