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"We have travelled a large section of the path toward an orderly withdrawal", European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters in Brussels, in front of a power-point display highlighting that a political agreement has been reached on most issues.

He said: "This is what Mrs May has formally accepted. there will be a backstop solution when the withdrawal treaty emerges".

A draft text of guidelines for negotiating future ties between the two - seen Tuesday by The Associated Press - warns starkly of the impact that May's decision to leave Europe's single market and customs union will have on any future trade agreement.

Varadkar said that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" and that he's reassured by the depth of support from Germany, the EU's most populous country.

"NFDA is pleased that Government will now be able to focus on negotiating a final agreement with the European Union and develop the UK's future trade relationship with the European Union, which we hope will remain frictionless, notably in Northern Ireland, and provide continued access to skilled technicians for our industry".

The leaders of the remaining 27 had been expected to rubber stamp the agreement - including the transitional arrangements - finalised in the Belgian capital on Monday.


European Union officials and diplomats said some countries had further questions for Tusk, including Spain, which was looking for assurances over Gibraltar.

In the latest version of the EU's draft plan for the post-Brexit future, financial services are mentioned explicitly for the first time. While Prime Minister May made an outright rejection of the backstop agreement proposed by the Commission, it appears - again - that the United Kingdom has capitulated on this point and will agree to a backstop in the legal text with the hope that a series of meetings in the near future will help resolve these questions. "We are not at the end of the road, and the last miles are often the most hard".

Mr Barnier was speaking after a meeting of European affairs ministers in Brussels which gave unanimous backing to the deal on transition, to some 70 per cent of a Withdrawal Agreement, and as well as proposed EU guidelines for the next round of talks.

It also said any new customs checks "would add cost, cause delays and threaten productivity".

The text on financial services, which has been drafted by France and Luxembourg, states that "the aim should be reviewed and improved equivalence mechanisms". It argues that financial stability is at stake, as well as the integrity of the single market.

However the transition deal does nothing to bring this closer to reality.


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