There has been an apocalyptic tone to the media response to today speech in Malta by President Tusk, where he was outlining the EU's response to Theresa May's letter of Tuesday last. The British Prime Minister's letter notified him, officially, that she was invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and that the UK is leaving the European Union. Apart from the comment about the future status of Gibraltar, I didn't think it was anything like as problematic as I was expecting.
The main media coverage has been about the unwillingness of the EU to enter into any discussion about a future relationship until a 'divorce settlement' is agreed. Personally I see little problem, mainly because (and perhaps I'm unusual here) I think a payment should be made. There will have to be a credible method of calculating the total sum of course, but the UK will pay what is properly due. We pay our debts. I would expect the Uk negotiation team to accept that, and agree to negotiate a figure. President Tusk did not mention a figure or timetable for payment. There's clearly plenty of wriggle-room for negotiation.
The exact wording used (and you can bet this had been redrafted a few times) was "An overall understanding on the framework for the future UK-EU could be identified during a second phase of the negotiation under Article 50. The EU and it's member states stand ready to engage in preliminary and preparatory discussions as soon as sufficient progress has been made in the first phase on reaching a satisfactory agreement on the arrangements for an orderly withdrawal."
And President Tusk was positive about reciprocal guarantees for migrants who reside outside of their home country - as I always knew would be the case.
But there were two big No-Nos. One is a continued role for the ECJ. "No! No! No! And the other was his totally unacceptable reference to Gibraltar - and Spain holding a veto over future arrangements. That's not acceptable either. Negotiators always throw in difficulties, which can be negotiated out in the search for concessions. But all in all, better than I expected.