Published: Sat, December 16, 2017
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

European Union stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks

European Union stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks

Her 27 counterparts are expected to agree on Friday that sufficient progress has been made on key separation issues including the divorce bill and the Irish border to move the negotiations onto the future relationship.

"It is now time for internal EU-27 preparations and exploratory contacts with the United Kingdom, to get more clarity on their vision", European Council president Donald Tusk told reporters after the meeting.

The EU also wants more clarity from the United Kingdom on what sort of trade and future relationship it envisages after Brexit to be able to start discussions on that future after March, when EU leaders adopt another set of guidelines for those talks.

Asked at a Brussels press conference whether Mrs May's goal of concluding negotiations by March 2019 was achievable, Mr Tusk said: "It is still realistic and of course dramatically hard".

She said the two sides would begin discussions on future relations straight away and hoped for rapid progress on a transitional phase to give certainty to business.

Mr Juncker said on Friday that the EU's initial priority was to "formalise the agreement" that had been reached before moving forward.

It can negotiate with its European Union partners, and establish the terms of its future trade relations, but no agreement can be concluded until it is completely out.

Asa Bennett, Brexit commissioning editor, and Brexit correspondent James Rothwell discuss what will happen next as the fraught negotiations move on to phase two. It will have no more lawmakers in the European Parliament, and any judges it has on EU courts will be removed.

The document "calls on the United Kingdom to provide further clarity on its position on the framework for the future relationship".

May says she still plans to deliver Brexit despite her recent defeat but she faces a new vote next week - this time on fixing the date of Britain's final departure from the European bloc.

"I have no doubt that the real test of our unity will be the second phase of the Brexit talks", Tusk told reporters as he arrived at the summit.

Mrs May is set to discuss her vision of the "end state" for the United Kingdom outside the European Union at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, having suffered her first Commons Brexit defeat earlier this week.

Meanwhile, her hopes of avoiding a second Commons defeat over Brexit also improved after senior Tory backbenchers from both the Leave and Remain factions appeared to be ready to back a compromise over Mrs May's plan to write the date the United Kingdom leaves the European Union into law.

A second humiliating Commons reverse now appears less likely as a compromise amendment tabled by senior MPs including Sir Oliver Letwin and Bernard Jenkin appeared to win over would-be rebels.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned this process will be "significantly harder".

Praising Mrs May as a "tough, smart and polite" negotiator, he said he was "entirely convinced" that the final agreement reached would be approved by the United Kingdom and European Parliaments.

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