Full steam ahead for Brexit, but at what pace as May wins go-ahead for deal talks

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As the European Council agreed Friday to Britain’s Brexit negotiations moving to the next critical stage, main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn urged Prime Minister Theresa May to learn from her mistakes.

Speaking in London after confirmation that talks will now start in the new year on Britain’s future relationship with the EU, Labor’s Jeremy Corbyn said: “This should have happened months ago. The truth is that the Government’s chaotic handling of the Brexit talks has hindered progress, fuelled uncertainty and risked economic damage.”

Corbyn added: “Theresa May must learn from her mistakes, put the needs of the country before her party and prioritize negotiating a future relationship with the European Union that puts jobs and the economy first.”

Earlier in Brussels the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker praised May as a tough, smart, polite and friendly negotiator.

Juncker said: “Now it’s up to us to draft a Withdrawal Agreement together with our British friends and I hope that this withdrawal treaty will be approved and by the European Parliament and by the House (of Commons) in London.”

May said on her social media site: “Today is an important step on the road to delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit and forging our deep and special future partnership with Europe.”

She said the two sides would begin discussions on future relations straight away and hoped for rapid progress on a transitional phase to give certainty to business.

The first issue to be discussed, early next year, will be the details of an expected two-year transition period after the UK’s exit in March 2019. Talks on trade and security co-operation are set to follow in March.

In a commentary Friday the Guardian newspaper said: “What the British prime minister appears to have achieved is to make Europeans realize that Brexit is going to happen, and they all have an interest in its being “orderly”.

She has persuaded them that, after a year of Michel Barnier’s punishment beatings, sweet reason might be a better way of progressing.

“So far, good news. But now, and before any substantive talks on future trade, a UK/EU transition deal must be negotiated, and fast.”

In London the Daily Telegraph said the guidelines for the negotiations poured cold water on the hopes of Brexiteers of a swift movement to detailed negotiations on a free trade agreement with the EU.

Labor’s international trade spokesman, Barry Gardiner, welcomed the move forward but said it would be a real problem for business if the EU didn’t start talking trade for a further three months.

The minority Liberal Democrat party at Westminster kept up their pressure for a new referendum to agree the final Brexit deal.

Early next week May’s cabinet will gather at 10 Downing Street when she will learn the reaction of her divided ministers to the latest Brexit developments.