U.K. and European negotiators finally agreed on three key issues that were blocking Brexit talks, paving the way for the next phase of discussion between the two sides.
“We have now made the breakthrough we needed,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters in Brussels on Friday morning.
After six months of intense talks, a settlement has been reached on how much the U.K. will pay before it leaves the Union, on citizens’ rights and on the Irish border. Negotiators are now set to move to phase two of Brexit — discussing trade arrangements.
“We worked extremely hard this week,” U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday, speaking alongside Juncker. She added that there had been a lot of “give and take” form both sides.
After overnight talks and an early flight to the Belgian capital, May detailed the agreement. She said the rights of 3 million European citizens in the U.K. were guaranteed and that the financial settlement would be “fair to the British taxpayer.” At the same time, she added that there will be “no hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Agreeing on these three issues was seen by many as the hardest part of the U.K.’s departure from the European Union. European leaders are now set to approve the latest joint deal on Thursday at a summit in Brussels. However, the process is far from concluded.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Juncker said, “the joint report is not the withdrawal agreement,” he pointed out.
The EU and the U.K. have yet to agree on a future trade deal, as well as on a possible transition period before any future relationship officially begins.
There were fears that following a couple of months of delay in the negotiations, the process of the U.K.’s departure from the EU could be at risk. The country is set to leave the Union on March 29, 2019 — meaning that negotiators have a couple of months to talk trade before the deal is sent through the many steps of European lawmaking and approved in time.
UK passes crucial Brexit milestone, paving the way for trade talks