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EU leaders approve guidelines for negotiations on post-Brexit relations and trade talks

However, the major issue of the Irish border still remains unresolved.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and British Prime Minister Theresa May
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and British Prime Minister Theresa May
Image: Jack Taylor

THE EUROPEAN UNION has agreed on guidelines that will govern negotiations on future relations and trade links with Britain after Brexit, almost exactly a year before the country leaves the bloc.

The agreement was hailed as a big step forward by Britain, which only has months to seal sweeping agreements on trade, security and a host of other areas before it ceases to be an EU member.

While chairing a summit of EU leaders in Brussels, European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that the “EU 27 has adopted guidelines for the future EU-UK relations”.

The document lays out their approach on a variety of matters, including future security, defence and foreign policy ties, as well as the outlines of a future trade deal.

Britain may negotiate trade agreements with other countries, including Ireland, after it officially leaves the bloc at midnight on 29 March 2019, but no pact can enter into force without EU permission before the end of December 2020, after a post-Brexit transition.

During that period, the country will remain part of the tariff-free single market and customs union even though it will be out of all EU decision-making bodies.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the transition period would give people and businesses time to prepare for life outside the EU, and she welcomed the EU green-light to future trade negotiations.

“I believe there is a new dynamic now in the negotiations,” May said as she left the Brussels summit.

I believe we are approaching this with a spirit of cooperation and a spirit of opportunity for the future as well.

After kissing May’s hand in front of reporters, EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier welcomed the move, saying “we are taking a decisive step in this difficult and extraordinary negotiation”.

Irish issues

The guidelines warn that the road ahead, particularly on trade, will be bumpy and that Britain should not expect to enjoy the close commercial relations it does today.

“Divergence in external tariffs and internal rules as well as an absence of common institutions and a shared legal system, necessitates checks and controls to uphold the integrity of the EU single market as well as of the UK market. This, unfortunately, will have negative economic consequences, in particular in the United Kingdom,” the document said.

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The major issue of the Irish border also remains unresolved. Britain and the EU both agree there must be no customs posts or other infrastructure after Brexit between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The two sides have still not agreed on how this can be done.

Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee said Ireland wants to see progress on the issue by June “at the latest” if a Brexit deal is to be completed by October, as both sides want.

That would give EU parliaments time to ratify it before Britain leaves the EU on 29 March 2019.

Read: Nigel Farage just threw a load of dead fish into the Thames

More: Brexit could increase cost of milk, cheese and eggs by 46%

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Associated Press

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