EU leaders give green light to 2nd phase of Brexit talks

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Leaders of the 27 European Union (EU) members gathering here for the Winter EU Summit had approved the second phase of Brexit talks, European Council President Donald Tusk said Friday.

“The European Council welcomes the progress achieved during the first phase of negotiations as reflected in the Communication from the Commission and the Joint Report, and decides that it is sufficient to move to the second phase related to transition and the framework for the future relationship,” said a Guidelines approved by the Council led by Tusk.

But negotiations in the second phase can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken during the first phase are respected in full and translated faithfully into legal terms as quickly as possible, said the Guidelines.

As regards transition, the European Council notes the proposal put forward by Britain for a transition period of around two years, and agrees to negotiate a transition period covering the whole of the EU acquis, said the document.

During the transitional period, Britain will be treated as a third country and will no longer participate in or nominate or elect members of the EU institutions, nor participate in the decision-making of the Union bodies, offices and agencies, said the document.

All existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures will apply both in Britain and the EU, including the competence of the Court of Justice of the EU, said the document.

As Britain will continue to participate in the Customs Union and the Single Market (with all four freedoms, i.e. free movement of goods, services and capital and labor) during the transition, it will have to continue to comply with EU trade policy, to apply EU customs tariff and collect EU customs duties, and to ensure all EU checks are being performed on the border vis-a-vis other third countries, said the Guidelines.

Responding to the question of “can the UK remain part of the single market after leaving”, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a short and affirmative “No” during a press conference after the Winter Summit.

“You can’t stay in the internal market with only three freedoms (without the free movement of labor),” she said.

Commenting on the approval, British Prime Minister Theresa May thanked Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker via her twitter account, saying “Today is an important step on the road to delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit and forging our deep and special future partnership.”

Echoing May’s optimism, David Davis, Britain’s Brexit Secretary and a staunch Brexiter, said on twitter that “Today is a good day for Brexit and an important step for Britain. Thanks to hard work and determination, we have reached an important milestone and have achieved sufficient progress. There is still lots of work to come but we are ready for the next stage.”

The highly expected yet belated approval came two days after the European Parliament welcomed the Joint Brexit Progress Report presented by EU and British negotiators on Dec. 8, and recommended Wednesday moving to phase two.

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