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The president of the European Council has told the British government that its forthcoming Brexit negotiations must first “sort out our past” on money, citizens’ rights, and Ireland, as leaders prepare for their first summit without the UK.

Ahead of a meeting of the EU-27 to discuss the UK’s exit in Brussels tomorrow, Donald Tusk warned the bloc would consider a future trade relationship with Britain only once the government settled its financial obligations and the rights of European citizens in the country.

“Before discussing our future, we must first sort out our past. We need to secure the best guarantees for our citizens and their families”, wrote Mr Tusk in an invitation letter to the EU’s remaining member states on Friday.

The former Polish prime minister called on EU leaders to unite “so that it is clear that progress on people, money and Ireland must come first. And we have to be ready to defend this logic during the upcoming negotiations”, he said.

The future of the Irish peace process is expected to form a key part of the EU’s’ first opening “guidelines” for talks, with European leaders preparing to recognise the potential for a “united Ireland” as a full EU member.

“In order to protect the peace and reconciliation process described by the Good Friday Agreement, we should aim to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland”, added Mr Tusk.

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