LONDON – The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed on Friday the decision taken by the European Union to move Brexit negotiations onto trade talks, calling it an important step towards delivering a smooth withdrawal from the bloc.
Theresa May, a Conservative, was reacting to news from a European Council summit in Brussels that the remaining EU heads of state and government had given their much-anticipated stamp of approval to a proposal to begin the second phase of the Brexit discussions, which open up the possibility for trade talks.
“Today is an important step on the road to delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit and forging our deep and special future relationship,” read a statement shared on the PM’s Twitter account that thanked European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council president Donald Tusk.
Progress from the first stage of negotiations, which required mutual agreements on citizens rights, a severance bill for outstanding commitments and a soft Irish border, is widely regarded as a success for May and she was congratulated by Tusk as he announced the EU’s decision.
The UK Brexit secretary, David Davis, reiterated the Tory leader’s message but acknowledged that a lot of work was yet to be done.
A statement released by the EU27 accepted the proposal for a two-year Brexit transition period, meaning the UK would continue to apply EU rules regarding its access to the Single Market and the Customs Union during that time, an element of the Council’s document that could prove a bitter pill to swallow for the UK’s more hard-line Brexit politicians, some of whom have campaigned to leave without a deal.
It also asked for the agreements settled in the first stage of discussions to be written into a legal document.
The UK is on course to pull out of the EU on March 29, 2019, following the narrow success of the Leave vote in a referendum in June 2016.