EU leaders agree to launch next phase of Brexit negotiations

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EU leaders agree to launch next phase of Brexit negotiations

At a summit in Brussels, European Union leaders gave the green light to advance Brexit talks to the next stage.

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

The final day of the EU leaders’ summit began where the first day ended: focused on Brexit. After toasting British Prime Minister Theresa May, the 27 other EU leaders agreed to move on to the second phase of Brexit talks, and the future relationship between the UK and European Union.

“She is a wonderful person, and she’s doing very well, representing tough the interests of Great Britain,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said. “I think it’s a useful conversation, and negotiation is going well.”

But over the morning’s working breakfast, the conversation deviated slightly, and instead focused on a point of contention about European economic reform. French President Emmanuel Macron has long-held plans to transform the Eurozone and “give Europe back to its citizens.” He didn’t get quite here on Friday, but Paris and Berlin will push for agreement in March.

“What we want to do with the Eurozone and even beyond with the EU, we need to see what are the policies we want to launch together, and where we want to get to within 10 years,” Macron said. “This is the question we need to figure out. This is the discussion to sort out by March.”

In the afternoon, leaders returned their focus to Brexit, giving the go-ahead to efforts addressing Britain’s future relationship with the bloc. As expected, negotiations will only start in earnest sometime in March 2018.

Some call this the more complicated part of the negotiations.

“It is now time to get more clarity on their vision,” European Council President Donald Tusk said. “I trust that the unity on the EU side will continue.”

In its draft guidelines, the EU acknowledged Theresa May’s desire to quit the EU single market and customs union. Ireland raised concerns on this point, however.

“From an Irish point of view, we would like it to look as much like the current relationship as possible, but that would not necessarily be the view of everyone,” according to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.