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Updated | Brexit gets EU leaders' green light

EU leaders have given the go-ahead for talks with Britain on its exit from the bloc to proceed to the next stage • Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says talks were constructive

kurt_sansone
Kurt Sansone
15 December 2017, 10:30am
Last updated on 15 December 2017, 2:24pm
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is in Brussels for a summit of EU leaders that is expected to give the green light for Brexit talks to move forward to next stage | Photo: DOI, Omar Camilleri
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is in Brussels for a summit of EU leaders that is expected to give the green light for Brexit talks to move forward to next stage | Photo: DOI, Omar Camilleri
The European Union agreed today to move talks forward with London on Britain’s exit from the bloc as leaders warmed to the British premier, but there was little clarity on trade, as well as on some issues already discussed.

On the second day of a Brussels summit, EU leaders agreed “sufficient progress” was made after a deal on citizens’ rights, the Irish border and Britain’s outstanding payments, giving negotiators a mandate to move on to the main phase of talks.

“EU leaders agree to move on to the second phase of Brexit talks. Congratulations PM Theresa May,” European Council President Donald Tusk, who chairs EU summits, said on Twitter.

EU leaders reportedly applauded British Prime Minister Theresa May during a working dinner on Thursday evening as Brexit negotiations are set to move to the next stage.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat smiled away a reference to the applause when he was asked by journalists about the matter on his way in to Friday morning’s Council session in Brussels.

Muscat said EU leaders were grateful to Theresa May for her commitment, even if they expressed some concern over developments in London.

Earlier this week May lost a vote in the House of Commons after 11 Tory MPs pushed through a legal amendment that makes it incumbent on the government to seek parliament’s approval over a Brexit deal.

But EU leaders appear to have been upbeat at their summit in Brussels.

“There is an appreciation that we have moved forward and the next big step now is for the UK to clearly define what it wants,” Muscat said when asked whether Brexit talks should proceed to the next stage dealing with the trade and economic relationship the UK will eventually have with the EU.

The EU is willing to start talks next month on a roughly two-year transition period to ease Britain out after March 2019, but has asked for more detail from London on what it wants before it will open trade negotiations from March of next year.

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”.

May, weakened after losing her Conservative Party’s majority in a June election, has so far carried her divided government and party with her as she negotiated the first phase of talks on how much Britain should pay to leave the EU, the border with Ireland and the status of EU citizens in Britain.

But the next, more decisive phase of the negotiations will further test her authority by exposing the deep rifts among her top team of ministers over what Britain should become after Brexit.

kurt_sansone
Kurt Sansone is Online Editor of www.maltatoday.com.mt. He was formerly deputy editor of ...