European Union leaders formally back Brexit transition deal

24 March, 2018, 14:13 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Theresa May is in Brussels to attend an EU summit

Theresa May said said the decision gave "clarity to people and businesses".

Leaders approved the strategy this morning at a meeting in Brussels, on the second day of the European Council summit.

It was a rare signal that despite Brexit a growingly hostile global environment would require stronger EU - UK included - cooperation.

It is feared that the United Kingdom may lower standards in order to reach a deal with the USA in a way that would be unacceptable to the EU.

The remaining 27 nations in the European Union have now opened the door for trade negotiations by endorsing a deal on Britain's 21-month transition to Brexit and approving guidelines created to deliver a "balanced, ambitious and wide-ranging" free trade agreement with the UK.

It clears the way for the next phase in Brexit talks. They have given a green light to talks over the bloc's future relationship with Britain for the first time. It will be summed up in a political declaration attached to the withdrawal treaty.

It offers no tariffs on goods and a close partnership on security and defence.

In exchange, the Britain will be allowed to negotiate new worldwide trade deals during the period at the same time as retaining the benefits of the single market and customs union.


The EU and Britain have agreed a "backstop" that Northern Ireland would remain part of the EU's customs union if there is no better idea - but London is deeply opposed to this. All manner of problematic issues have the potential to cause rancour and will require considerable political skill to resolve to the satisfaction of all parties - from fishing waters to Gibraltar and the Irish border to name a few.

"If we can have an agreement on the terms backstop or an alternative to the backstop before June, that's something we would very much welcome", Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said after the summit.

EU President Donald Tusk said the bloc would now use the "positive momentum" to tackle "outstanding issues", including how to avoid border checks between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

He added that leaders will also decide then how detailed the early agreement on the future relationship will be.

Theresa May has said Britain will enter negotiations on its future relationship with the European Union in "a spirit of co-operation", after leaders of the remaining 27 member states cleared the way for trade talks to begin.

British prime minister Theresa May welcomed the EU's move. I believe there's a new dynamic now in the negotiations.

"I believe we are approaching this with a spirit of co-operation, a spirit of opportunity for the future as well, and we will now be sitting down and determining those workable solutions for Northern Ireland, but also for our future security partnership and economic partnership", she said.

Following the news that the European Council had agreed a Brexit deadline of the end of 2020, FDF director general Ian Wright said: "The UK's 7,000 food and drink manufacturers will welcome the certainty today's agreement brings".

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