Leaders of the 27 remaining European Union states have approved negotiating guidelines for talks on Britain’s future trade and security relations.
But the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned that any future partnership ‘must respect the principles and identity of the EU and the single market’.
The move sets the scene for talks on trade to get under way in earnest, following months of wrangling over the terms of the UK’s withdrawal and the transition period to the new arrangements.
Prime Minister Theresa May called for a ‘new dynamic’ in the next stage of negotiations, in order to reach a deal which will be good for both Britain and Europe.
Addressing the EU27 over dinner in Brussels May said it was their duty to show ‘energy and ambition’ in the upcoming talks.
Barnier said the move marked a ‘decisive’ moment in ‘this difficult and extraordinary negotiation’.
He cautioned that the future partnership negotiated over the coming months ‘must respect the principles and identity of the EU and the single market’.
May added that ‘compromise on both sides’ had been required to reach a mutually acceptable legal text on the transition.
It will see the UK continue to observe EU rules until the end of 2020 while winning the freedom to negotiate and ratify trade deals with outside countries.