European leaders have given the green light for crucial Brexit talks to move to the second phase, Brussels has announced.
The momentous decision was announced by European Council president Donald Tusk after discussions lasting less than half an hour on Friday.
The talks will deal with the transition to a new relationship after the UK’s withdrawal.
They could begin as early as next week – though it is feared they could prove just as tricky as the first round of talks which were only concluded last week.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said the next process would be ‘significantly harder’.
Prime Minister Theresa May was not present for the announcement – she left the two-day summit early after assuring leaders of the remaining 27 EU nations on Thursday evening of her determination to see Brexit through -despite this week’s defeat in the House of Commons.
Before heading back to London, Mrs May was reportedly applauded by other leaders at dinner in Brussels on Thursday night after she spoke about the two sides’ need to embrace future talks and deals with ‘creativity and ambition’.
Mr Tusk said on Twitter: ‘EU leaders agree to move on to the second phase of #Brexit talks. Congratulations PM @theresa_may.’
Austrian chancellor, Christian Kern, who has raised the possibility of Britain holding a second referendum on Brexit, said the applause for Mrs May had not been very enthusiastic although he also added that it was ‘well deserved’.
Despite the upbeat messages from Brussels, plenty of pitfalls lay ahead for the next round of talks.
The next phase of talks will initially focus on transitions talks, a process which will see Britain eventually lose its voting rights as a member of the EU.
This could prove controversial as there are concerns in London that the EU could drag its feet on this issue as it has to agree the position for 27 countries – after complaints during the first round of talks that Britain took too long to agree a common position.
Talks will also focus on trade and Britain is fearful that any delay might make the business sector more jumpy, raising the prospect of potential jobs being moved out of the UK.
MOST POPULAR ON YAHOO UK TODAY
Woman, 93, handcuffed and locked up because she refused to leave her care home
An addiction to posting selfies is an actual condition and we’re afraid there’s no cure
EU leaders say crucial Brexit talks can now move on to the next stage
Irish judge lets man, 54, off jury duty because he’s ‘fallen in love for the first time’
‘Youthquake’ named ‘word of the year’ by Oxford Dictionaries – here’s what it means
Pictures of the Week: Fires, fields and festivities
The next phase of talks will also focus on transitions talks, a process which will see Britain eventually lose its voting rights as a member of the EU, which could prove politically contentious in the UK. during ongoing talks.
Trade talks will finally determine whether Britain goes for a ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit, and if the country remains within the Customs Union and the Single Market, a major point still to be finalised.
Britain has said it can deliver a unique deal with the EU trading bloc, but hardline Brexiteers want the UK to leave the customs union and single market as well.