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European Union leaders set to approve second stage of Brexit talks
16 December 2017, 05:54 | Bernice Figueroa
Simon Dawson Reuters
May, weakened after losing her Conservative Party's majority in a June election, has so far carried her divided government and party with her as she negotiated the first phase of talks on how much Britain should pay to leave the European Union, the border with Ireland and the status of European Union citizens in Britain.
"We will be beginning the talks about our future relationship, we will be beginning those straight away, and also talking about the implementation period that will give certainty to businesses and individuals", May told Sky News in an interview.
It makes clear that the EU expects the United Kingdom to observe all of its rules - including on freedom of movement - and accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice during this time.
"EU leaders agree to move on to the second phase of Brexit talks".
"Today is an important step on the road to delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit and forging our deep and special future partnership", she tweeted.
Asked if a final deal by March 2019 - Britain's exit date - could be achieved, Tusk insisted it was "still realistic and of course dramatically difficult".
The three-page document says the United Kingdom will remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and be required to permit freedom of movement during any transition period.
He also said his party would not put a time limit on a post-Brexit transition phase, as the expected two-year period would be "extremely tight".
First priorities will be to translate last week's agreement on the "divorce" issues of citizens' rights, the Irish border and the UK's £39 billion exit bill into a legally binding Withdrawal Agreement and to work out the terms for a transition period to follow the official date of Brexit in March 2019.
Mrs May has said she wants both sides to approach the next phase of negotiations, which will determine the long-term shape of the United Kingdom relations with the European Union, with "creativity and ambition".
Juncker said: "Now it's up to us to draft a Withdrawal Agreement together with our British friends and I hope that this withdrawal treaty will be approved and by the European Parliament and by the House (of Commons) in London".
Meanwhile, her hopes of avoiding a second Commons defeat over Brexit also improved after senior Tory backbenchers from both the Leave and Remain factions appeared to be ready to back a compromise over Mrs May's plan to write the date the United Kingdom leaves the European Union into law.
Backbenchers, including former minister Oliver Letwin, have tabled an amendment, suggesting a change to the legislation.
But British officials are hoping for a deal by March on a two-year transition out of the bloc, during which their relationship would largely stay the same.
May replied on Twitter, thanking Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and hailing it as a major advance in the negotiations.
Praising Mrs May as a "tough, smart and polite" negotiator, he said he was "entirely convinced" that the final agreement reached would be approved by the United Kingdom and European Parliaments.
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