EU and Britain plot next chapter for Brexit

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EU Chief Negotiator in charge of Brexit negotiations with Britain, Michel Barnier. AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Commission and the British government let out an audible sigh of relief on reaching Friday’s historic Brexit divorce terms deal.

Yet numerous questions remain on the future trade relationship between the EU 27 and the bloc’s departing member as the discussions now move on to a new phase at a December 14-15 Brussels summit.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned “there is still work to be done” to “consolidate” the progress made to date.

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The preamble to the 15-page divorce deal published after British Prime Minister Theresa May’s morning dash for talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker illustrates the still precarious nature of the deal.

“Under the caveat that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, the joint commitments set out below in this joint report shall be reflected in the Withdrawal Agreement in full detail,” says the introduction to the text.

The conclusion notes that the deal is conditional on “an overall agreement under Article 50 on the UK’s withdrawal, taking into account the framework for the future relationship, including an agreement as early as possible in 2018 on transitional arrangements”.

Even Friday’s deal itself leaves elements open to question surrounding the thorny issue of the Irish border post-Brexit, along with the size of Britain’s divorce bill and the protection of expats’ rights.

The deal is clear on guaranteeing the post-Brexit rights of Britons already living in the bloc and of their EU counterparts based in Britain with family members able to claim residence.

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