Britain and EU 'compromise' on Brexit Deal, Paving Way for Trade Talks

Theresa May Jean-Claude Juncker Brexit Deal
Theresa May Jean-Claude Juncker Brexit Deal
Theresa May Jean-Claude Juncker Brexit Deal
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May meets with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The European Commission said on Friday enough progress had been made in Brexit negotiations with Britain and that a second phase of negotiations should begin, ending an impasse over the status of the Irish border.

The Commission announced its verdict in an early morning statement after intense talks, which resulted in British Prime Minister Theresa May taking an early-morning flight to Brussels to announce the deal alongside Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The Commission's recommendation that sufficient progress has been made will now go to the European Union summit of leaders taking place next week. May said she expected a formal agreement to be approved at the summit.

"Prime Minister May has assured me that it has the backing of the UK government. On that basis, I believe we have now made the breakthrough we need. Today's result is of course a compromise," Juncker told a hastily arranged news conference.

The commission said it was ready to begin work immediately on Phase Two talks, which cover trade and long-term relations with the bloc.

Moving to talks about trade and a Brexit transition is crucial for the future of May's premiership, and to keep trade flowing between the world's biggest trading bloc and its sixth- largest national economy after Britain leaves on March 30, 2019.

May's key parliamentary ally in Northern Ireland said a text clarifying arrangements on the UK-EU border on the island of Ireland had been agreed, four days after 11th-hour objections from Belfast scuppered May's attempt to sign off on an accord over the Irish border during a lunch in Brussels on Monday.

A carefully choreographed attempt to showcase the progress of Brexit talks collapsed at the last minute when the Northern Irish party that props up May's government vetoed a draft deal already agreed with the government in Dublin.

Since then, May has been scrambling to clinch a deal on the border in Ireland acceptable to the EU, Dublin, her own lawmakers and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which keeps her government in power.

The chairman of European Union leaders, Donald Tusk, said the bloc is ready to start negotiating a transition period with Britain after it leaves the EU, and it wanted more clarity from London on how it sees their new relationship after leaving.

Tusk said Britain will have to respect all EU laws during the transition, as well as respect its budgetary commitments and the bloc's judicial oversight. But it would no longer take part in decision-making that will be done by the 27 remaining states.

"We are ready to start preparing a close UK-EU partnership in trade but also fight against terrorism and international crime, as well as security, defense and foreign policy," Tusk told reporters after British PM Theresa May arrived in Brussels with a Brexit deal.

Tusk said, however, too much time was spent on negotiating the outlines of Britain's exit, which he said was the relatively easier part.

"We all know that breaking up is hard but breaking up and building a new relation is much harder," he said. "So much time has been devoted to the easier task and now ... we have de facto less than a year," left of talks before Britain is due to leave in March, 2019.