Minute by minute: how the Brexit negotiations played out

PUBLISHED: 14:54 08 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:55 08 December 2017

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker Theresa May attend a joint press conference in Brussels


Theresa May grabbed only "a couple of hours" of sleep as she raced against the clock to get agreement on the terms of Britain's withdrawal from the EU last night.

Become a Supporter

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism

The prime minister and close colleagues, including Brexit secretary David Davis and chief of staff Gavin Barwell, worked late into the night, as the Number 10 staff Christmas party took place in the building around them.

Once final details of the deal had been hammered out and the PM had taken a quick nap, she was off to RAF Northolt for a pre-dawn flight to Brussels.

This is how the night and morning played out (all times UK):


7.30pm Mrs May speaks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in separate phone calls.

9pm PM phone call with DUP leader Arlene Foster.

11pm Second phone call with Mrs Foster, during which it was agreed that the Northern Irish party's objections had been resolved.

11.53pm Government chief whip Julian Smith tweets: "Theresa has worked tirelessly this week to try to move EU negotiations onto the next stage in the National Interest", apparently signalling the moment when Number 10 put the final touches to a deal which all sides could agree.


1.18am Mr Barwell tweets: "Home for 3 hours sleep then back to work".

3.45am After a couple of hours' sleep, Mrs May leaves Number 10 to be driven by official car to RAF Northolt in west London.

4.10am The European Commission announces that Mrs May and Mr Juncker are "likely to meet" in Brussels in the morning.

4.30am An RAF BAe146 jet of the Royal Flight takes off for Brussels with Mrs May and Mr Davis on board.

4.57am The Cabinet Office confirms that Mrs May is travelling to the Belgian capital "for further meetings on the Brexit negotiations".

5.16am Mr Barwell tweets: "It's been a long week."

5.54am Mrs May and Mr Davis arrive at the European Commission's Berlaymont HQ, to be greeted by Mr Juncker.

5.55am Mrs Foster says "substantive changes" have been made to the text which she blocked on Monday, ensuring "no red line down the Irish Sea".

6.06am Mr Juncker's chief of staff Martin Selmayr signals that a deal has been concluded, by tweeting a picture of white smoke billowing from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel - the traditional means of announcing that a new pope has been chosen.

6.40am After finalising their agreement over breakfast, Mrs May and Mr Juncker hold a press conference, in which the Commission president says that "sufficient progress" has been made to move on to trade talks.

7.06am Mrs May arrives at the European Council and is greeted by president Donald Tusk.

7.33am Mr Tusk confirms he has sent proposals to the EU27 leaders for a new negotiating mandate, covering transition and trade.

8.18am Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says the Brexit deal had "achieved all we set out to achieve", adding: "This is not the end, it is the end of the beginning."

8.47am The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier sets out full details of the agreement in a press conference.

9.30am Mrs May arrives back in her Maidenhead constituency, where she meets services users and carers at the "excellent" Alzheimer's Society. The PM tweets that she was "pleased to become a #DementiaFriend, an initiative aiming to create a climate of kindness and understanding about dementia".

10.21am British sources confirm that the UK's financial settlement will be an estimated £35-£39bn.

Become a Supporter

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

Become a supporter

You've seen the news, now discover the story

The New European is committed to providing in-depth analysis of the Brexit process, its implications and progress as well as celebrating European life.

Try 13 weeks for £20

Latest Articles

Most Read

latest issue


Find your nearest pro-European campaigning activities, talks, protests and events nationwide.