EU's Tusk says meeting Brexit deadline will be 'dramatically difficult'

EU's Tusk says meeting Brexit deadline will be 'dramatically difficult'

EU's Tusk says meeting Brexit deadline will be 'dramatically difficult'

But in a passage added during the past week, it invites the EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to "continue internal preparatory discussions" on future relations rather than having to wait until March to do so.

After months of hard talks, May and Juncker agreed a deal on the key divorce issues of Britain's exit bill, the future of the Irish border and expatriate rights.

The Prime Minister made clear she wanted talks on post-Brexit trade relations with the European Union to begin "straight away" as the United Kingdom continues with its goal of negotiating a deal which can be signed immediately after the official date of departure on March 29 2019.

The EU also wants more clarity from the United Kingdom on what sort of trade and future relationship it envisages after Brexit to be able to start discussions on that future after March, when EU leaders adopt another set of guidelines for those talks.

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.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday that "some of us thought, including me, that she did make big efforts and this has to be recognized".

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Addressing the leaders over a Thursday night dinner of roasted langoustines, ballotine of capon and "festive log with a twist", May was "clear about wanting to move onto trade talks as quickly as possible", a British official said. "We have to make sure [a country that leaves] doesn't stay in a transition stage for ever - it wouldn't work for either the United Kingdom, nor the EU", Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar told press after the meeting.

Speaking in her Maidenhead constituency, Mrs May told the Press Association the move to the second phase of talks represented "an important step on the road to delivering the smooth and orderly Brexit that people voted for in June of last year". Nobody commented on her intervention, but her brief talk was received with a round of applause. It will have no more lawmakers in the European Parliament, and any judges it has on EU courts will be removed.

Bettel said he fully supported May and she was "fully respected" among fellow leaders in Brussels. Tusk warned that the next stage of talks would be even harder than the tortuous six months of negotiations that led to last Friday's interim accord.

"Unity was very much the topic of the discussion", Varadkar said, adding that individual bilateral negotiations with the United Kingdom should be avoided.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said she was a "formidable political operator" but that it was "crucial" she sets out Britain's wish list for long-term ties. "For sure, the second phase will be more demanding, more challenging than the first phase".

"We managed to keep that unity and really have the ambition to do the same in the next period", the premier added.

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