Brexit: EU leaders agree to move talks onto next stage

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.

Talks on trade and security co-operation are set to follow in March.

"We will be beginning the talks about our future relationship, we will be beginning those straight away, and also talking about the implementation period that will give certainty to businesses and individuals", May told Sky News in an interview.

He congratulated UK Prime Minister Theresa May on reaching what the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg said was a major moment in the Brexit process.

It makes clear that the EU expects the United Kingdom to observe all of its rules - including on freedom of movement - and accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice during this time.

Addressing the leaders over a Thursday night dinner of roasted langoustines, ballotine of capon and "festive log with a twist", May was "clear about wanting to move onto trade talks as quickly as possible", a British official said.

"Today is an important step on the road to delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit and forging our deep and special future partnership", she tweeted.

While securing a deal in time for the UK's exit in March 2019 was realistic, he suggested that the next phase would be "more challenging and more demanding".

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Labour's global trade spokesman, Barry Gardiner, welcomed the move forward, but said it would be a "real problem" for business if the European Union didn't start talking trade for a further three months.

The document says: "As the United Kingdom will continue to participate in the customs union and the single market during the transition, it will have to continue to comply with EU trade policy".

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

Still, time is running out for Britain - EU negotiators have said that an agreement has to be in place by October next year in order for it to get the requisite clearance from national parliaments in time for the actual day of Brexit in March, 2019.

Juncker said: "Now it's up to us to draft a Withdrawal Agreement together with our British friends and I hope that this withdrawal treaty will be approved and by the European Parliament and by the House (of Commons) in London".

Paul Masterton, a potential Tory rebel who abstained in the defeat on Wednesday, said it was a "sensible amendment to the Withdrawal Bill that gives us flexibility on Brexit date if we need".

Giving his response, French President Emmanuel Macron said that in moving forward the European Union had maintained its unity, protected the integrity of the single market and ensured "compliance with our own rules".

A British government official said the prime minister was approaching the next phase, which will discuss a transition period as well as the terms of the future trading relationship, "with ambition and creativity".

  • Sonia Alvarado