May Praises EU Move Delivering ‘Smooth’ Brexit

European Union heads of state attend a breakfast meeting at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. (John Thys, Pool Photo via AP)

BRUSSELS (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May praised her fellow European leaders Friday 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 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.”

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned 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.

“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 said.

She 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.”

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