Brexit breakthrough: UK, EU negotiators reach deal on key issues

World Today

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives for a breakfast meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Commission in Brussels, on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May, met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk early Friday morning following crucial overnight talks on the issue of the Irish border. (Eric Vidal, Pool Photo via AP)

UK and EU negotiators reached a breakthrough in negotiations on Britain’s departure from the European Union, meaning talks between parties can move to a second phase.

CGTN’s Mariam Zaidi reports.
Follow Mariam Zaidi on Twitter @zaidi_mariam

At the eleventh hour – and after talks dramatically collapsed on Monday -a deal on phase one of Brexit negotiations came early on Friday morning. The EU Commission said sufficient progress on the three core issues of separation had finally been made.

“We discussed the joint report agreed by the two negotiators,” EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said. “Prime Minister May has assured me that it has backing of the U.K. government. On that basis I believe we have now made the breakthrough we needed.”

May said she believed the deal is in the best interest of the U.K.

“I very much welcome the prospect of moving ahead to talk about trade and security, and discuss positive and ambitious future relationship that is in all of our interests,” she said.

Moments later, EU Council President Donald Tusk confirmed that he would recommend to EU leaders opening trade talks at their summit starting next week.

But more work still needs to be done to find “unique solutions” on the Irish border issue that avoids a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. And Prime Minister May – while saying a settlement had been agreed that’s fair for the U.K. taxpayer – failed to detail a final figure.

Another aspect that may alarm hardline Brexiteers: to maintain the rights of EU citizens post-Brexit, the UK will continue to be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice for another eight years.

“Why eight years? It’s a reasonable and realistic period to build up case law precedent,” EU Lead Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier said. “It doesn’t exist yet in the area of citizen rights.”

Those involved released a collective sigh of relief today, and the deal helps restore some credibility to UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s government and its ability to negotiate. But this was only the first stage, and as the President of the EU Council Donald Tusk pointed out, the most difficult challenge still lies ahead.

Less than a year now remains for the UK and EU to conclude trade talks.