After months of deadlock and intense all night calls in a tough week for the Prime Minister, EU27 leaders unanimously agreed “sufficient progress” had been made to allow talks to move on to the second phase.
Now the next stage of talks will focus on Britain’s future relationship with the bloc including trade.
So, where will Britain be in the Brexit process by next Christmas?
First of all, the “sufficient progress” made during phase one of Brexit talks must be finalised, and there are plenty of technical details which still need to be agreed.
The Prime Minister has declared the UK will leave the single market and customs union but questions remain over how full alignment between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland can be maintained without a hard border, which has already been ruled out.
Will UK and EU negotiators be able to agree a plan for a post-Brexit relationship?
Brexit negotiators will have to deal with a range of similar issues which were sidestepped as the PM tried to push through a deal before the EU Summit on December 14.
There is also the issue of the transition period – earlier this month, the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said it should not continue beyond December 31 2020, which is at odds with the UK Government’s plans for a two-year period.
Mr Barnier’s 21-month transition period appears a very optimistic estimate at this point, and many people on both sides expect it to take much longer to unpick the relationship between the UK and the EU.
The terms of the transition period will also be negotiated next year, with Britain and the EU already revealing differing views on how Britain’s EU exit will proceed.
Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Juncker at the EU Summit in December
The EU says the UK will have to continue to follow its rules and cannot adopt an “a la carte” approach.
While the Prime Minister has acknowledged Britain will still be covered by existing EU rules and regulations
And work will continue to move the EU Withdrawal Bill through Parliament.
It is still being debated and despite facing hundreds of attempts to change its wording by MPs, only one – to give Parliament a guaranteed vote on the final Brexit deal – has been passed by the Commons so far.
Will May and Juncker still be smiling by next Christmas?
Parliament is expected to pass the EU Withdrawal Bill early in the new year, which would enshrine a series of EU rules and regulations into UK law in order to ensure a smooth transition on March 29, 2019, which has been dubbed ‘Brexit Day’.
Early 2018 will see Britain’s Brexit negotiators meet with their EU counterparts to try to determine the future relationship between London and Brussels after Brexit.
Mr Barnier has said he wants the terms of Britain’s EU exit agreed by Autumn 2018, having previously indicated he would like to have an exit deal agreed within 18 months of Article 50 being triggered, or by October 2018.
There is also expected to be a crunch Parliament vote to allow MPs to decide whether to accept a final Brexit deal or walk away before the deal goes before the European Parliament.
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The European Parliament will then vote on the Brexit agreement.
If the European Parliament approves the deal, the EU Council, made up of the leaders of the remaining 27 EU members, will then conclude the withdrawal agreement – but like Phase One, it must be a unanimous decision.
And it is hoped all this will be concluded by next Christmas, by which point Britain is expected to be in the final stages of its withdrawal from the EU and ready to formally leave the bloc on March 29, 2019.