EU leaders are required to unlock the following stage of Brexit negotiations at the summit on Friday (15 December) after applauding British Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce proposals.
Her 27 counterparts are set to agree we have seen sufficient progress on key separation issues including Britain’s exit bill additionally, the Irish border to transport talks around the future relationship.
But the EU will stress that while they will start talks for the post-Brexit transition in January, they do not begin trade talks until March as they need more clarity on Britain’s goals forever after it leaves in 2019.
After May addressed on them dinner in Brussels on Thursday, the leaders gave her a round of applause, while saying Britain wanted to spell out just what it wanted quickly.
German Chancellor Merkel Merkel said May had made “good offers that indicate that the 27 will cause sufficient progress” but added that “there remain many issues to get solved therefore we don’t have much time”.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said May would have been a “formidable political operator” who will not be underestimated.
“Now two things are crucial. First would be that we assemble the handshake of last Friday into legally binding agreements,” he was quoted saying.
“At the same time for ones UK into the future forward because of their wishes their just what it what the future relationship using the EU are going to be.”
May sought to brush off a humiliating parliamentary defeat as she came to a Brussels summit on Thursday (14 December) insisting that Brexit was on course as EU leaders ready to move talks on to the next stage.
May said she was “disappointed” that members of her Conservative party had rebelled late Wednesday to demand parliament uses the final say around the separation, but stressed: “We’re to normal to deliver Brexit.”
Several leaders sought to experience down the impact of the vote in the House of Commons, although Luxembourg Pm Xavier Bettel warned: “It’s not making her lifetime easier.”
May has struggled to say her authority since losing her parliamentary majority within the June vote, as well as latest setback will renew fears about her mandate for negotiations for the second phase.
Pro-European MPs declared they had taken back power over Brexit after amending a landmark part of legislation so they must approve the past divorce deal.
Test of EU unity?
After a great deal covering Britain’s financial settlement, the Irish border and expatriate rights, the next stage of talks will take care of future trade relations with a post-Brexit transition.
EU President Donald Tusk acknowledged the negotiations would also be a test on your bloc’s own unity, simply because it tries to continue a host of reforms after Britain’s departure.
“Relating to no doubt that your real test of one’s unity would be the second phase in the Brexit talks,” Tusk told reporters as they arrived at the summit.
He said a “insufficient unity is definitely visible” on two key subjects facing the EU after Britain leaves: plans for the way forward within the migration crisis, and proposals for reforms with the eurozone.
‘Furious race against time’?
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker struck an agreement with May on Brexit separation issues on 8 December, saying Britain had made “sufficient progress” to go the talks onto trade.
Over dinner on your first night of the summit on Thursday night, May was “clear about attempting to move onto trade talks as fast as possible”, a British official said.
May told them she “cannot make secret of desperate to move onto the next thing and to approach it with ambition and creativity”, adding of the fact that transition period is a “particular priority”.
The British premier won’t attend Friday’s meeting and flew home after dinner.
But Tusk warned earlier this week to a “furious race against time” to arrive a deal before Britain leaves the bloc on 29 March, 2019.
The EU guidelines that leaders will approve on Friday say they may start talks around the transition in January but will not begin discussions on trade until March simply because it needs more clarity on Britain’s goals, while security and defence might be covered later the coming year.
Questions also linger over the deal struck a while back, after British Brexit minister David Davis appeared to suggest it had not been legally enforceable.
There are particular concerns about London’s guarantee there won’t be any frontier checks between Ireland additionally, the British province of Northern Ireland, as soon as the UK leaves the EU’s single market and customs union.
Davis’s comments prompted an alert by the EU that Britain should not backtrack, and Rutte repeated Thursday: “We simply can’t have a misunderstanding of the items was agreed.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel added that although progress has been given, there were still “outstanding questions”.
British officials are hoping for a deal by March on a two-year transition, where the bilateral relationship would largely stay the same, although Britain follow EU laws.
A trade deal would be a tougher period, with options including after the model of web pages EU-Canada trade deal, or Norway’s membership with the European Economic Area.