EU ministers have agreed a mandate for the next phase of Brexit negotiations with the UK.
Foreign ministers of the 27 member states – minus the UK – met in Brussels to thrash out a deal.
Britain is set to leave the EU in March 2019. The remaining 27 member states have prepared their joint stance on what they expect of London during the transition period to the end of 2020.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier can now start talks with London on the transition immediately. His deputy highlighted the unity of the 27 by saying they endorsed the document “within two minutes”.
Britain says it wants out of the EU’s single market and customs union while keeping an open border between its province of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
This contradiction has yet to be fully addressed.
Brussels is open “in principle” to extending Britain’s transition period. But ministers have made it clear they do not want to get stuck in protracted trade negotiations to fix London’s future relationship with the bloc.
Outside the building where the EU foreign ministers were talking Brexit, another spectacle was taking place.
Farmers with a beef with Brussels occupied the Schuman roundabout in the European quarter.
They are angry that the EU is relaunching its free-trade agreement with South America’s Mercosur.
A meeting is planned between the EU’s trade commissioner and ministers. The fear is import quotas will threaten european meat production.