The EU has outlined its strategy for Brexit negotiations, suggesting talks on a trade deal could begin once “sufficient progress” is made on a separation settlement with the UK.
The guidelines, issued by European Council President Donald Tusk, argue for a “phased approach” in talks.
The draft will be sent to the 27 member states for approval. They will set the tone for two years of negotiations.
Britain formally triggered the Brexit process on Wednesday.
It had called for simultaneous talks on exit terms and future trade ties.
The draft guidelines, seen by the BBC, calls for a “phased approach giving priority to an orderly withdrawal”.
It suggests starting with discussions on the separation arrangement. They could then move on to talks about a future trade relationship between the EU and the UK.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered the Brexit process by sending the Article 50 notification letter to Mr Tusk on Wednesday.
Speaking at a news conference in Malta on Friday, Mr Tusk said that while the talks would be “difficult, complex and sometimes even confrontational”, he hoped all sides would approach them positively.
“The EU 27 does not, and will not pursue a punitive approach – Brexit in itself is already punitive enough,” he said.
He added that the EU shared the UK’s desire for a close partnership. “Strong ties reaching beyond the economy, and including security co-operation remain in our common interest,” he added.