EU leaders have agreed to move Brexit negotiations to the next stage onto discussions about Britain’s future trading relationship outside the bloc. 

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, tweeted the news after they met in Brussels.

While acknowledging ‘very significant progress’ had been made, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the next phase would be ‘even tougher’.

British PM Theresa May said: “Today is an important step on the road to delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit and forging our deep and special future partnership.”

The leaders also adopted a set of guidelines detailing a rough timetable for a transition period and a schedule of deadlines to ensure negotiations remain fluid.

The first issue to be discussed, at talks next month, will be the terms of an expected two-year transition phase after the UK’s March 2019 exit.

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