The EU has agreed to move to the final phase of Brexit talks

Theresa May in Brussels Getty
  • The EU agrees its negotiating guidelines for the final phase of Brexit talks.
  • Britain is due to leave the EU in just over one years’s time.
  • EU leaders are set to rubber stamp the terms of the Brexit transition.
  • May celebrates clear “progess” on a Brexit deal.

LONDON – EU leaders have agreed to move Brexit talks into the final phase after agreeing their negotiating guidelines for the next round of talks.

The 27 leaders met in Brussels today to formally adopt negotiating guidelines for talks on the future UK-EU relationship, and agree to a 21-month transition period when Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

The guidelines, which were leaked to Business Insider earlier this week, set out the political terms of the withdrawal agreement and call for movement from Britain on the Northern Ireland border and the future of Gibraltar.

They also insist that any free trade deal with the UK will be dependent on Britain maintaining “existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources,” which is hugely controversial among many Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs.

Earlier this week several Conservative MPs attended a protest in which former UKIP leader Nigel Farage tossed dead fish into the Thames outside parliament in protest at May’s agreement to maintain current EU fishing rules during the Brexit transitino.

However, despite this row, Downing Street are pleased overall that negotiations are progressing. Ahead of the meeting, Theresa May told reporters: “We’ve made good progress on the withdrawal agreement.

She added: “But also I’m looking for a new dynamic in the next stage of the negotiations so that we can ensure that we do develop, that we work together to develop, a strong future economic and security partnership which I believe is in the interest of the UK and the European Union.”

The announcement caps a successful week of diplomacy for May after she secured the support of her fellow EU leaders following the poisoning of Sergei Skripal.

The EU leaders agreed with May that it is “highly likely” that Russia was behind the chemical weapons attack in Salisbury, England earlier this month.

In a statement, the European Council of EU leaders agreed that “there is no plausible alternative explanation” than that Russia were to blame.

The statement added: “We stand in unqualified solidarity with the United Kingdom in the face of this grave challenge to our shared security.”

The EU has also withdrawn its ambassador from Russia for “consultations” on the issue