Brexit negotiations reach breakthrough

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   Brexit negotiations experienced a breakthrough last week as officials from the United Kingdom and European Union closed the first phase of economic talks.
   After six months of debate, the two parties made progress on the issues of citizens’ rights, the dialogue on avoiding a hard border in Ireland, and the financial settlement of Brexit.
   “The commission’s negotiator has ensured that the life choices made by EU citizens living in the United Kingdom will be protected,” the EU said Friday. “The rights of EU citizens living in the United Kingdom and United Kingdom citizens in the EU27 will remain the same after the United Kingdom has left the EU. The commission has also made sure that any administrative procedures will be cheap and simple for EU citizens in the United Kingdom.”
   European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker said the negotiations were difficult, but he is satisfied with the “fair” deal it has reached with the UK.
   “If the 27 Member States agree with our assessment, the European Commission and our Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier stand ready to begin work on the second phase of the negotiations immediately,” he said. “I will continue to keep the European Parliament very closely involved throughout the process, as the European Parliament will have to ratify the final withdrawal agreement.”
   The British International Freight Association (BIFA), which has been vocal throughout the negotiations, commented on the progress as well.
   “Our members, which form the bulk of the UK freight forwarding and logistics sector, will be breathing a sigh of relief that the UK and European Commission have reached agreement on phase 1 issues,” BIFA Director General Robert Keen said. “There is still plenty of hard work to do, but this does appear to mean that discussions on transitional arrangements and our future trading relationship with the EU can now commence. The focus for the UK Government must now be on agreeing a transition deal, and explaining to business and the country as a whole what kind of trading relationship it is looking for in the long-term. The most pressing concern for our members has been the matter of the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU, especially Customs procedures post-Brexit.
   “The Phase 2 negotiations need to remove the uncertainty that is currently faced by a large number of traders over the matter of future Customs declarations once the UK leaves the European Union (EU),” Keen added. “We are actively involved with HMRC and have always recommended that there needs to be wider engagement with all who are engaged in processing international trade to give them as much time as possible to prepare and to allay fears. We will be continuing with our lobbying efforts to make sure that our members and the trading companies that they serve get better and more regular information about the likely Customs implications of Brexit.”
   The next steps call for a draft of the withdrawal agreement based on Article 50, as well as further negotiations on additional issues, the EU said.

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