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Brexit talks can move on to phase two, EU expected to say | Politics | The Guardian – Brexit talks can move on to phase two, EU expected to sayJoint proposal from British and EU negotiators set to be agreed on Friday morning to end tricky divorce phase of talks and move to transition in Brussels

EU leaders are set to rule that sufficient progress on the first phase of Brexit talks has been made, allowing negotiations to move on to discussions about Britain’s future outside the bloc.

While some questions over the three opening issues that have so far dominated the negotiations still remain, a joint proposal from the UK and the European commission to move the talks on is expected to be agreed at a mid-morning meeting on Friday.

Initially, the second phase of Brexit talks will be dominated by discussions over the terms of a transition period, under which the UK will continue to abide by EU law for roughly two years, but not have a role in any decision making institutions.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, encouraged leaders to give May a round of applause at the end of the British prime minister’s short address to a summit dinner of EU leaders on Thursday night to sketch out Britain’s hopes for the second phase.

Arriving at the second day of the summit in Brussels on Friday, Juncker said the applause was deserved. “Some of us thought, including me, that she did make a big effort and this has to be recognised,” he said.

Asked whether, in the wake of May’s defeat in the Commons this week over Brexit legislation, the UK might still stay in the EU, he added that it “depends on the British parliament and British people”.

Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, said European leaders did not debate May after her address because of the rules over article 50 negotiations, under which discussions with the UK are supposed to go through the commission’s negotiator, Michel Barnier.

He said, however, that after giving an update on the state of the negotiations “some people offered some good luck, merry Christmas remarks and there was a light round of applause after that”.

The Austrian chancellor, Christian Kern, said the applause had not been very enthusiastic.

However, the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, said May was “a wonderful person” who was doing “very well” representing the interests of the UK. “She’s a tough lady,” he said.

Negotiators from the UK government and the commission have spent nine months wrangling over the opening issues in the negotiations: the rights of of the 4.2 million UK and European citizens who have made lives in each other’s territories; the divorce bill; and the thorny issue of how to avoid a hard border with Ireland once the UK leaves the bloc.

Last week, after intense last-minute negotiations with the Democratic Unionist party over the UK’s plans for the Irish border, an agreement was struck between Juncker and May to allow the talks to widen to discuss the terms of a transition period once the UK leaves the EU, and the outline of a possible trade deal.

The prime minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, said Thursday night’s discussion with May had been “pretty constructive”, though he acknowledged there was some concern about “developments in London”.

Of the next phase, he said: “The first real big step is for the UK to say very clearly what it wants in clear terms.”

Dalia Grybauskaitė, the president of Lithuania, said she expected phase two to “probably start in March after the next summit, and once the terms of a transition period are tied down by the two negotiating teams”.

The Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, said he “welcomed with great courtesy [Theresa May’s] kindness in making herself available”.

“We know that phase two will not be more simple than phase one,” he added.

Sorgente: Brexit talks can move on to phase two, EU expected to say | Politics | The Guardian

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