EU leaders say crucial Brexit talks can move to next stage

UK Prime Minister Theresa May at the Brussels summit earlier this week (Rex)

European leaders have given the green light for crucial Brexit talks to move to the second phase, Brussels has announced.

The momentous decision was announced by European Council president Donald Tusk after discussions lasting less than half an hour on Friday.

The talks will deal with the transition to a new relationship after the UK’s withdrawal.

They could begin as early as next week – though it is feared they could prove just as tricky as the first round of talks which were only concluded last week.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said the next process would be ‘significantly harder’.

EU Council president Donald Tusk tweeted his congratulations to the British PM (Twitter)

Prime Minister Theresa May was not present for the announcement – she left the two-day summit early after assuring leaders of the remaining 27 EU nations on Thursday evening of her determination to see Brexit through -despite this week’s defeat in the House of Commons.

Before heading back to London, Mrs May was reportedly applauded by other leaders at dinner in Brussels on Thursday night after she spoke about the two sides’ need to embrace future talks and deals with ‘creativity and ambition’.

Mr Tusk said on Twitter: ‘EU leaders agree to move on to the second phase of #Brexit talks. Congratulations PM @theresa_may.’

Austrian chancellor, Christian Kern, who has raised the possibility of Britain holding a second referendum on Brexit, said the applause for Mrs May had not been very enthusiastic although he also added that it was ‘well deserved’.

A poll showing how the British public think Brexit talks are proceeding (PA)
The crucial next stages ahead for Brexit talks (PA)

Despite the upbeat messages from Brussels, plenty of pitfalls lay ahead for the next round of talks.

The next phase of talks will initially focus on transitions talks, a process which will see Britain eventually lose its voting rights as a member of the EU.

This could prove controversial as there are concerns in London that the EU could drag its feet on this issue as it has to agree the position for 27 countries – after complaints during the first round of talks that Britain took too long to agree a common position.

Talks will also focus on trade and Britain is fearful that any delay might make the business sector more jumpy, raising the prospect of potential jobs being moved out of the UK.


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The EU’s Jean Claude-Juncker at the Brussels summit on Friday (Rex)

The next phase of talks will also focus on transitions talks, a process which will see Britain eventually lose its voting rights as a member of the EU, which could prove politically contentious in the UK. during ongoing talks.

Trade talks will finally determine whether Britain goes for a ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit, and if the country remains within the Customs Union and the Single Market, a major point still to be finalised.

Britain has said it can deliver a unique deal with the EU trading bloc, but hardline Brexiteers want the UK to leave the customs union and single market as well.