Brexit deal proves critics wrong: UK's May

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The EU is willing to start talks next month on a roughly two-year transition period to ease Britain out after March 2019 but wants more detail from London on what it wants before it will open trade negotiations from March.

"We will be beginning the talks about our future relationship, we will be beginning those straight away, and also talking about the implementation period that will give certainty to businesses and individuals", May told Sky News in an interview.

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

He congratulated Mrs May on reaching this stage and said the European Union would begin internal preparations for the next phase right now as well as "exploratory contacts with the United Kingdom to get more clarity on their vision".

Theresa May hailed the agreement as an "important step" on the road to a "smooth and orderly" withdrawal.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking to reporters at the end of the summit's first day, said that Mrs May had made "good offers" which might allow leaders to agree that sufficient progress has been made to progress.

The BMG poll of 1,400 people for The Independent published on the newspaper's website on Saturday came as Britain moves into a second phase of negotiations on exiting the European Union, which will focus on trade.

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". She said she makes "no secret of wanting to move on to the next phase and approach it with ambition and creativity".

The EU has published its guidelines for phase two of the negotiations, with discussions on future economic co-operation not likely to begin until March.

It's clear from these guidelines which you can read here, that the EU understands the United Kingdom will "continue to participate in the Customs Union and the Single Market (with all four freedoms) during the transition".

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However, the EU has warned May that her hopes of agreeing a bespoke trade deal before Brexit to replace Britain's membership of the EU's single market and customs union is unrealistic.

While on a trade visit to China, Philip Hammond was asked whether the United Kingdom would remain under the control of the European Court of Justice and participate in the single market and customs union, despite not having membership or a role in decision making.

The document "calls on the United Kingdom to provide further clarity on its position on the framework for the future relationship". The coming talks could well test that cohesion in the European Union, not least because of the divergent trading relationships the 27 remaining European Union countries have with Britain.

His comments came shortly after finance minister Philip Hammond said Britain would "effectively replicate the status quo" during the transition period, highlighting May's task in uniting her cabinet ahead of the second phase of negotiations.

Praising Mrs May as a "tough, smart and polite" negotiator, he said he was "entirely convinced" that the final agreement reached would be approved by the United Kingdom and European Parliaments.

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Mrs May is set to discuss her vision of the "end state" for the United Kingdom outside the European Union at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, having suffered her first Commons Brexit defeat earlier this week.

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