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Brexit: EU leaders agree to start internal talks on trade with UK

Theresa May discusses Brexit following European Council summit

EU leaders have agreed to begin internal discussions on their approach to the “second phase” of Brexit negotiations, the European Council have announced.

Leaders of the EU27 said there have not been sufficient progress in negotiations to launch into trade discussions with the UK. However, European Council Donald Tusk announced that members of the EU27 would now begin discussions amongst themselves in preparation for if or when negotiations do move beyond the current impasse.

The EU has long held that progress in negotiations would only come after the UK provides clarity on how much it is willing to pay in the so-called “divorce bill” and agrees to protect the rights of EU nationals in the UK after Brexit.

In a press conference following her meeting with Tusk, Theresa May said the EU and UK now “share the same objective” of protecting the rights of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU. This move contradicts the comments previously made by international trade scecretary Liam Fox, who described the future of EU nationals as one of the UK’s “main cards” in negotiations.

May went on to say that the Belfast agreement must be at the heart of the approach to negotiations, and made clear her position that there should not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic and the decision for the UK to leave the EU should not negatively impact the peace process.

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