The Latest: May says UK, EU to start new talks right away

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on Britain's Brexit discussions with the European Union at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels (all times local):

4:10 p.m.

Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain and the European Union will start talking about their future relationship "straight away," even though the EU has stressed no trade deal can be finalized until after the divorce agreement is settled and Britain has left the bloc.

May also said Britain will leave the EU on March 29, 2019, although a deal between the U.K. and the bloc says Britain will continue to be bound by EU rules during a transition period of about two years after that.

The 27 other EU members on Friday gave the go-ahead for Brexit talks to move into their second phase, discussing transition and future relations.

Speaking from her southern England constituency, May said "the U.K. and the EU have shown what can be achieved by commitment and perseverance on both sides."

She said the agreement was "an important step on the road to delivering the smooth and orderly Brexit that people voted for" last year.


3:00 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says it wasn't easy getting to the point where European Union leaders felt confident advancing the talks about Britain's departure from the EU.

The talks starting next year will involve wide-ranging discussions on trade terms and other features of the future relationship between Britain and the 27 remaining EU nations.

Leaders of the 27 countries agreed Friday that enough progress had been made on initial issues, including the status of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, to move to the next stage.

During a news conference at a European summit in Brussels, Macron said: "We were able to maintain the 27's unity, the integrity of the single market and the respect of common rules."

He added: "We will make sure in the next phase to keep these same principles."

Macron insists there won't be any bilateral discussions with the U.K. in the upcoming negotiations.


2:55 p.m.

EU Council President Donald Tusk says that concluding Brexit negotiations with Britain on time will be "dramatically difficult" and even "more demanding, more challenging" than the first phase of talks already were.

When asked if it was still realistic to meet the March 2019 deadline for Britain to leave the bloc with a full agreement, Tusk said "it is still realistic and of course dramatically difficult."

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he expects "the real negotiations on the second phase" of Brexit talks to start in March.


2:30 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is praising her fellow European leaders for agreeing to move on to the next phase in the negotiations over the U.K.'s withdrawal from the EU.

May was already back in Britain on Friday when the 27 other EU leaders agreed that "sufficient progress" had been made in the initial Brexit talks covering divorce terms to proceed to other topics such as trade.

She said their agreement "is an important step on the road to delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit and forging our deep and special future partnership."

Negotiations in the spring will center on establishing a two-year transition period as Britain seeks to cut its EU membership ties and maintain a close economic relationship.


2:05 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says even tougher work lies ahead after the European Union agreed to move talks on Britain's departure to the second stage.

The talks starting in the new year will involve wide-ranging discussions on the future relationship between Britain and the 27 remaining EU nations, including trade.

Merkel said Friday: "We have taken a good step forward. The second phase can begin — but with that, an even harder piece of work begins than what we had so far."

Merkel added that the 27 nations staying in the EU have worked together and maintained their unity "wonderfully" so far in the Brexit negotiations, "and I am hopeful and very optimistic that we will also succeed in doing this as the process continues."


1:25 p.m.

British business groups are welcoming the EU's decision to green-light phase two of the Brexit talks, but warn that any delays in starting trade negotiations will add to economic instability.

In a joint statement, groups including the British Chambers of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses say a delay in beginning trade talks "could have damaging consequences for business investment and trade, as firms in 2018 review their investment plans and strategies."

They also want the U.K. and the EU to confirm details of a post-Brexit transition period, "to give businesses in every region and nation of the U.K. time to prepare for the future relationship."

Phase two talks are set to begin in January. They are due to start by hammering out details of a transition period before moving on to future relations between Britain and the EU.


12:35 p.m.

European Union leaders have given the go-ahead to Brexit talks with Britain to move onto the next stage, which will involve discussions over future relations and trade.

In a tweet on the second day of an EU summit, EU chief Donald Tusk said EU leaders "agree to move on to the second phase" in Brexit talks and congratulated British Prime Minister Theresa May.

The clearance provides a welcome boost to May, who earlier this week lost a key parliamentary vote over giving lawmakers the final say on the Brexit deal before Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.

In a breakthrough last week, the two sides agreed that the first round of issues in the Brexit talks had advanced sufficiently for now. These involved Britain's divorce payment, keeping the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland open and sorting out citizens' rights following Brexit.


9:30 a.m.

European Union leaders are set to authorize a new phase in Britain's departure from the bloc.

The expected clearance Friday to trade discussions will provide a welcome boost to British Prime Minister Theresa May, who earlier this week lost a key parliamentary vote over giving lawmakers the final say on the Brexit deal.

May received a round of applause from EU leaders Thursday night after giving her assessment of progress in the talks. Britain is due to leave in March 2019.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday that "some of us thought, including me, that she did make big efforts and this has to be recognized."

Malta's prime minister, Joseph Muscat, said "there was appreciation from everyone," despite concerns in the EU of developments in London.

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