Brussels, March 19 (IANS) The European Union (EU) and Britain on Monday reached a Brexit transition deal that will lead to the "orderly withdrawal" of the UK and is expected to be signed off by leaders during Friday's EU summit.
The deal was announced after a round of talks between Brexit negotiators Michel Barnier and David Davis in Brussels. "A good deal for the EU and Britain is closer than ever before," said Davis during a joint press conference with Barnier.
However, "the transitional period will only come after everything is agreed," said Barnier, EU's chief Brexit negotiator.
Hailing the deal as a "decisive step", Barnier and Davis said they had agreed on a "large part" of terms for a transitional deal but issues still need to be resolved including the Northern Ireland border, the BBC reported.
Britain agreed to a contentious "backstop solution" which would keep Northern Ireland signed up to EU rules in order to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, according to the deal.
EU27 citizens arriving in Britain during transitional period will have same rights with citizens arriving before the Brexit, the deal stated.
Britain will stay in the single market and customs union for 20 months after it leaves the EU in March 2019 and will be able to sign new free trade deals during the transition -- but they won't come into effect until after the period ends.
Davis said he hoped negotiations on the UK's future relationship with the EU could now start "as soon as is possible... we need to get on with this now", adding that it is set to be "the biggest, most comprehensive, most effective trade deal ever".
Meanwhile, any agreement reached at the summit this week will be a political commitment -- not legally binding until the final withdrawal agreement is signed early next year, reports said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May sent a notification letter to the EU in late March last year, triggering a two-year countdown to the UK's withdrawal of the bloc after more than 44 years of membership.
The transitional period is set to last from March 29, 2019 to December 2020 and is intended to smooth the path to a future permanent relationship.
labour's shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer MP welcomed the transition deal, calling it "a step in the right direction".
(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)