Business groups welcome "milestone" in Brexit talks — Transition agreed

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European Union diplomats said that it was likely that the draft wording on Ireland would not be agreed before May meets the other 27 leaders in Brussels on Thursday or before the 27 meet to agree a transition deal on Friday.

Spokesmen for Barnier and the British government declined official comment.

The two sides have agreed in principle that the United Kingdom will continue to remain part of the EU's structures and rules until the end of 2020.

The agreement will not be finalised in legal text until the Irish border issue is resolved.

Negotiations on that will not start until next month, once Friday's European Union summit gives Barnier the go-ahead.

Calls for a Brexit transition delay have provoked a political clash but Chair of the Exiting the EU Committee Hilary Benn has told LBC it doesn't mean we're not leaving the EU.

The document said: "The negotiators have reached agreement on some elements of the draft protocol".

For those countries, any threat that there might be no transition agreement could be as damaging as it is for London.

"There could be a deal", one senior European Union diplomat said.

The remaining 27 European Union countries say Britain must agree to terms on Northern Ireland before it will sign off on the final version of their divorce agreement and advance to trade talks in April.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said it remained the UK's intention to achieve a partnership that was so close it did not need Northern Ireland-specific measures and pledged to engage in detail on all scenarios set out in December's Joint Report between the two sides.

The U.K. itself has sought to head off a last-minute Irish snag by publishing a timetable of seven U.K-EU meetings on the Irish question before mid-April. The U.K. believes the solution lies in the future U.K. -EU trade deal or, if this can not be agreed, "technological solutions". "While this agreement is a big move in the right direction, it will be important to see that there is real political and regulatory commitment from both sides to a transition period".

"With no clarity on what Britain wants from the negotiations and with the prospect of a cliff-edge merely pushed back a little further, it makes no sense to plunge into the transition period at all".

The Tánaiste's remarks on extending the transition period reflect concerns that proposed deadlines may slip and a longer transition period may be needed given the deep divisions between London and Brussels.

"We must seize the moment and carry forward the momentum of the last few weeks", Davis said. Officials point to three areas where there has been movement. An EU official said the clause was standard for such global agreements. He has said previously that the transition period could take up to five years. Where there are passages which might be open to misinterpretation, London will ask for its understanding to be made explicit. Would they use a veto which the EU Council has given them?

"On the divorce bill, on the primacy of European law, on freedom of movement, on fisheries, the government has yet again capitulated".

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