EU Council summit greenlights phase two of Brexit talks

Written by Martin Banks on 15 December 2017 in News

European leaders have given their approval for Brexit talks to move on to the next phase.

Theresa May | Photo credit: Press Association

The green light for the talks to progress in 2018 was given at a summit in Brussels on Friday after Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said last week’s divorce deal amounted to sufficient progress. 

UK Prime Minister Theresa May was in Brussels for the two-day European Council summit at which she was applauded by leaders of the other 27 member states for her speech over dinner on Thursday.

She told them that she wanted to approach the remaining stages of EU withdrawal with ambition, creativity and perseverance.


On Friday, as expected, the leaders of the EU27 formally agreed “sufficient progress” has been reached in the first stage of Brexit negotiations.

Initially, the second phase of Brexit talks will be dominated by discussions over the transition period, under which the UK will continue to abide by EU law for roughly two years, but not have a role in any decision-making institutions.

May said she was keen to begin building a “deep and special” UK-EU partnership as soon as possible and stressed she made “no secret” of her desire to move the talks onto the next phase and to engage in these negotiations with “ambition and creativity”. 

She added, “A particular priority should be agreement on the implementation period so that we can bring greater certainty to businesses in the UK and across the 27.”

She also said, “On the security issue, I’m very clear that although the British people took a sovereign decision to leave the EU that does not mean that we were going to be leaving our responsibilities in terms of European security.”

Asked about the vote that took place in the House of Commons on Brexit this week she said, “I’m disappointed with the amendment but actually the EU Withdrawal Bill is making good progress through the House of Commons and we’re on course to deliver on Brexit. 

“Last week, President Juncker said that sufficient progress had been made to move on to phase two of our negotiations and this week the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted to accept that recommendation too.”

European Council President Donald Tusk said the summit marked the “the end of our first phase of the Brexit negotiations.”

He added, “I have no doubt that the real test of our unity will be the second phase of the Brexit talks.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday night encouraged leaders to give May a round of applause as the British Prime Minister ended a short address to a leaders’ dinner.

Leo Varadkar, the Irish Prime Minister, said European leaders did not debate with May after her address because of the rules over Article 50 negotiations, under which discussions with the UK are supposed to go through the Commission’s negotiator, Michel Barnier.

The two-day summit also adopted conclusions on security and defence, social dimension, education and culture, and climate change.

On the issue of immigration, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said, “Our citizens look our way to resolve the migration crisis. They no longer accept the uncontrolled flows of migrants, pilgrimages of refugees hopping from country to country in search of asylum, mass deaths in the desert or at sea, or the appalling spectacle of markets where people are sold as slaves.”

On defence and security, the Italian MEP said, “We should follow the example of our space policy where European systems, such as EGNOS, Galileo and Copernicus, have helped to make us more competitive. Drawing on that example, the next budget must set aside the funds needed for proper investment in security and defence.”


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine


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