ROME – The Latest on Brexit (all times local):
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is renewing a pledge to conduct Brexit talks "fairly and constructively," while also stressing the importance of European Union unity and the need to protect the interests of EU citizens in Britain.
Merkel says that Germany will push to "create clarity and planning security as quickly as possible" for EU residents in Britain, including about 100,000 Germans.
She added that the EU also must "limit the damage that Britain's withdrawal could bring for the European Union as a whole if the withdrawal and transition did not succeed."
Merkel said during a speech in Hamburg that it's important that the remaining EU 27 members remain as united in the negotiations as they have been since the Brexit referendum in June.
The EU's chief Brexit negotiator is warning that the bloc will not discuss a future relationship with Britain until all 27 member states are reassured that their citizens living in the U.K. will be treated "properly and humanely."
French negotiator Michel Barnier said such assurances are needed to build trust for a new post-Brexit relationship.
Speaking Friday at a conference on the EU "state of the union" in Florence, Barnier said protecting the rights of EU citizens was a "moral duty" as well as a political necessity,
He said: "The European Council has decided that preserving the rights of EU citizens and families will be the priority, will be my priority."
"It will not discuss our future relationship with the U.K. until 27 member states are reassured that all citizens will be treated properly and humanely."
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has drawn laughs at a conference by announcing that he'd speak in French because "slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe."
Juncker was speaking at the European University Institute in Florence's annual "state of the union" conference, which comes amid Brexit negotiations and the upcoming French presidential runoff.
Juncker opened his remarks by saying that he had decided to speak in French.
His reason? "Slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe." Drawing applause and laughs he continued: "And then the French will have elections next Sunday and I would like them to understand what I'm saying about Europe and nations."
Juncker and other EU officials have been engaged in a war of words with British leaders this week before Brexit negotiations.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel says British expectations in its divorce proceedings from the European Union are "not realistic" and sent a clear warning that Britain won't escape having to foot a hefty bill for its momentous decision that has shaken the bloc to its core.
Michel said in an interview with The Associated Press Friday that "those who think in Britain they can push the Brexit button and not have a bill to pay are seriously mistaken."
Over a few testy days this week, both sides sparred about the negotiations which are to start after the June 8 U.K. election, with some questioning what, if anything, Britain should pay for. Estimates have ranged from 20 billion euros to the latest Financial Times mark of 100 billion euros.