Prime Minister Theresa May has said she is hopeful of a “swift” move to talks on Britain’s future trade relationship with the EU following this week’s summit in Brussels.
Leaders of the remaining 27 EU nations are expected to give their approval on Friday to a draft agreement on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, including a post-Brexit transition period lasting until the end of 2020.
European Council president Donald Tusk has recommended endorsement of the deal, which he said would put off “the negative consequences of Brexit” for another 21 months after the formal date for the UK’s withdrawal in March 2019.
Arriving at the European Council summit, Mrs May said: “I’m looking forward to talking about Brexit.
“We made considerable progress through the agreement on the implementation period, which will bring certainty to businesses and people.
“I look forward to the European Council endorsing that agreement and moving on swiftly to talk about the future partnership that we all want to build together.”
Under the terms of the joint legal text agreed by Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier the UK will be able to negotiate and ratify trade deals with outside countries during the transition period, to enter into effect on January 1 2021.
Mrs May told the House of Commons on Wednesday that for the first time in 40 years, Britain would be able to “forge our own way by negotiating our own trade agreements”.
However, the PM faces warnings that the deal could be scuppered by her own MPs unless she tears up “unacceptable” proposals for fishing.
Some 14 of the PM’s backbench parliamentary allies – 13 Conservatives and one DUP MP – have signed a joint letter denouncing the draft deal agreed by the Government earlier this week.
Mr Tusk earlier this week expressed doubts over whether the EU27 would give their approval to the draft transition deal.
Spain is understood to have insisted that it should retain a veto over any decisions on the future of Gibraltar.
But on the eve of the summit, Mr Tusk tweeted: “I have just recommended to EU27 leaders that we welcome, in principle, the agreement on transition. In practice, the transition phase will allow to delay all the negative consequences of Brexit by another 21 months.”
Mrs May was meeting Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for one-on-one talks on the margin of the summit, and was also due to have a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.