The first EU countries to officially declare their intention to leave the bloc are taking aim at the bloc’s political leaders and their allies ahead of a crucial vote on Britain’s departure.
The countries of Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece are planning to publish the formal declaration of their intention in the coming days, and the European Commission will also publish a draft document.
The move is aimed at ensuring that citizens of the 28-member bloc can travel to other EU countries after Brexit without having to seek permission from the bloc.
It is also expected to help prevent future legal disputes.
The UK is seeking to end its EU membership in 2019, while Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Ireland want to join the bloc without leaving the bloc first.
However, the countries of Spain, Germany and Austria have so far resisted the EU plans, with Germany demanding that it should be held to a different standard than its southern neighbour.
The bloc will hold a summit in September to discuss the future of its 28-nation member states, and a joint declaration is expected by the end of this year.
It will be the first formal declaration since Britain’s EU referendum in June, when the British government said it was planning to leave in 2019.
The EU is considering how to react to the formal announcement of the countries’ intentions.
The European Commission, the blocs executive, is expected to publish a joint statement in late September, with the ministers and the Council of the European Union (CEU) expected to be present.
However the statement could also be drafted in the future to reflect different views, including from the countries that are not part of the bloc at the moment.
A spokeswoman for the EU said the commission was “ready to take any measures necessary to safeguard the internal market and ensure that EU citizens have access to the Schengen area”.
“This is why the Commission will publish a formal declaration,” she added.
A decision to trigger article 50, the formal exit process that begins with the UK triggering Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty in March 2019, will take place on the day the Commission publishes its joint statement, which will be accompanied by a draft of the declaration.
The draft document could be drawn up by the 27-member European Parliament.
In addition to the EU countries, some member states have already made clear their intention of leaving the union before the vote.
A group of five eastern European countries led by Poland is due to vote in the early hours of Thursday morning in a referendum on whether to leave or remain.EU officials say the 28 member states are also likely to vote on whether they should leave the EU.
However there is some disagreement between the bloc and the member states over the issue of a future relationship with Russia, which is one of the most contentious issues in the EU referendum.
The issue of relations with Moscow has been a sore point for many EU countries in recent months, with Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all voting against the EU in the vote to leave.
The Polish vote has been backed by Germany, which wants to retain close ties with the Russian Federation, while Italy, which has been close to Moscow, is opposed.
Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is scheduled to hold a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Thursday, ahead of his planned visit to the country.
The vote will be a test of whether the EU can overcome the divisions that emerged during the EUs summit in May, when Germany said it would continue to support the EU until it could find a solution to the Russian problem.
Italy is one EU country that has said it will keep close ties to the bloc even after Brexit, and hopes to stay in the bloc after Brexit.