Britain’s prime minister and the European Commission president announced Friday an agreement has been reached to move “Brexit” negotiations to the first phase of trade discussions.
The announcement at a news conference by Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker came after many stumbling blocks and months of discussions.
The EU and Britain had differences in three main areas — the rights of European citizens in Britain, reinstatement of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and a substantial “divorce bill.”
Juncker said Friday enough progress was made to move on to the next phase, and May assured there would be “no hard border” in Ireland.
Friday’s agreement came four days after negotiations broke down among parties.
President of the European Council Donald Tusk said the “toughest talks were to come,” and they would occur during the transition period — as Britain would have to accept EU law and budget commitments under jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
The new agreement was seen as a significant improvement by the Democratic Unionist Party, which had concerns that the wording suggested a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the new agreement is a “bulletproof” and “cast iron” guarantee that there would be no border.
Former British Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, though, said the deal is not acceptable and that it simply allows London to move on to “the next stage of humiliation.” He added that the European Court of Justice “will be the ultimate arbiter of EU citizens’ rights.”
By Susan McFarland