After hammering out the finer details in an early morning meeting, Theresa May and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker have struck a deal, allowing Brexit to advance to stage two which will see talks on the future trading relationship.
Theresa May, who arrived in Brussels before the sun was up has confirmed that there will be no hard border for Ireland, whether that be “north, south, east or west”. She confirmed that the deal will maintain the integrity of the internal market in the UK. In a Friday morning news conference, she denied that the deal is any kind of special treatment for Northern Ireland.
May said she will write to the people of Northern Ireland today “to set out our approach”.
Juncker confirmed on Friday morning that a successful deal has been struck.
“We have now made the breakthrough we needed,” he said.
“Today I am hopeful that we are now all moving towards the second phase of these challenging negotiations."
He said the agreement is “of course a compromise”.
Following her early morning meeting with Juncker, May moved on to a meeting with President of the European Council Donald Tusk, who confirmed that he has received advice to proceed with Brexit talks.
Tusk also said that the UK has requested a two year long transition period, and in return the UK will need to adhere to laws set by the EU, which will include any new laws, budgetary decisions and judicial oversight.
Tusk did say that more emphasis needs to be on the future UK/EU relationship. He stressed that he hopes the EU and UK can maintain a close partnership across policy and trade.
"We are ready to start preparing a close UK-EU partnership in trade but also fight against terrorism and international crime, as well as security, defence and foreign policy," Tusk said.
“We all know that breaking up is hard. But breaking up and building a new relation is much harder."
Despite the Friday morning jubilation, Tusk snuck a barb in his comments to the media, highlighting the time left after delays and early-exit bungles.
“So much time has been devoted to the easier part of the task,” he said. “And now, to negotiate a transition arrangement and a framework for our future relationship, we have de facto less than a year.”
The joint report from the EU negotiators and the UK Government, which will be tabled at a meeting of the European Council on December 14, sets out the arrangement in full. The agreement will not be considered complete until it has been ratified at next week’s meeting.
"I also look forward to next week’s European Council meeting, where I hope and expect we will be able to get the endorsement of the 27 (member countries) to what is a hard-won agreement in all our interests," May said.
In the report, the United Kingdom laid out its commitment to a soft Irish border.
“The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border….the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement,” the report said.
Deputy prime minister of Ireland Simon Coveney expressed relief on Friday, calling the agreement “a good outcome”.
“This has been a difficult negotiation, I hope both sides are happy with what we have,” he said. “It puts a floor in terms of what’s possible in the outcome.”