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Britain, EU in historic deal to open Brexit trade talks

15:35, Friday, 08 December, 2017
Britain, EU in historic deal to open Brexit trade talks

Britain and the European Union reached a historic deal on Brexit divorce terms on Friday that allows them to open up talks on a future relationship after the split.

Prime Minister Theresa May rushed to Brussels for early morning talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to reach the breakthrough.

The European Commission announced that it "recommends sufficient progress" had been made by Britain on separation issues including the Irish border, Britain's divorce bill, and citizens' rights.

But EU President Donald Tusk -- who will recommend to leaders at a summit next week to open trade and transition talks -- warned that the toughest task was to come.

"Let us remember that the most difficult challenge is still ahead. We all know that breaking up is hard but breaking up and building a new relation is much harder," Tusk said.

Negotiators worked through the night to seal an agreement after the EU set a deadline of Sunday.

May said the key part of the agreement was to ensure there would be no return of checkpoints on the frontier between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Britain leaves on March 29, 2019.

"In Northern Ireland we will guarantee there will be no hard border," she told a press conference with Juncker.

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