Brussels: British Prime Minister Theresa May and the European Union (EU) on Friday announced that a breakthrough deal has finally been reached to move the Brexit talks on to future trade and a transitional period, after days of tortuous negotiations.
The Prime Minister arrived in Brussels before 6 a.m. on Friday to address a joint press conference with EU leaders following discussions with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that stretched long into the night, reports The Independent.
Standing alongside May, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, said "sufficient progress" had been made on all three so-called "divorce issues" - the Irish border, a financial settlement and EU citizens' rights.
May said it "hasn't been easy for either side", árguing there had been "give and take on both sides" to strike an agreement that was a "significant improvement". She pointed to the prize of successfully moving onto talks on future trade, saying: "Doing so will provide clarity and certainty for businesses in the UK and the EU."
The Prime Minister also argued she had reached a financial settlement "fair for the British taxpayer". It is expected to be at least 45 billion pounds - with top-up payments for future market access likely.
But May claimed the payout would allow the government to "invest more in our priorities of housing, schools and the NHS (National Health Services)". And, on the Irish border, she admitted that "specific solutions to what are the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland" would still need to be found - suggesting the deal was still a fudge.
On EU citizens, Juncker pointed to possible trouble ahead, saying: "For EU citizens, the ECJ (European Court of Justice) will still be competent." "I will always be sad about this development (Brexit) but now we must start looking to the future. "Today I am hopeful that we are now all moving towards the second phase of these challenging negotiations,' Juncker added.
The text of the agreement showed disputes involving EU citizens in the UK can be referred to the ECJ for eight years, longer then the UK wanted and a likely flashpoint with hard Brexit.
In Belfast, Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, said she had secured "six substantive changes" to the text which it vetoed on Monday over the issue of "regulatory alignment" with the EU, to avoid a hard land border in Ireland, The Independent reported.
The Irish Government insisted it had achieved all that it had been seeking in the intensive negotiations over the last few days, pointing to a "guarantee of avoiding a hard border".
Juncker stressed that the deal remained a Commission recommendation, saying: "The decision on sufficient progress will be in the hands of the 27 heads of state or government."
They will meet at a summit on December 14. May was asked whether she had ever considered during negotiations that "maybe after all, this whole Brexit affair is a very bad idea". She replied: "The British people voted and they voted to leave the European Union.
"I believe it's a matter of trust and integrity in politicians. I believe the people should be able to trust that their politicians will put into place what they have determined. That's exactly what we are doing and we will leave the European Union." The UK is set to leave the EU by March 2019 (IANS)