In Brussels, Brexit talks have shifted toward one clear direction: the future relationship.
Ministers for European affairs met on Monday morning to discuss the political text that will serve as a guideline to the talks that will begin after the U.K. leaves the EU in March — these negotiations will be mainly targeted at securing new trade arrangements between both sides.
The so-called political declaration is due to be published Tuesday and then reviewed by the different EU capitals before Thursday. The 27 European leaders and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May are then due to sign off this political deal on Sunday, when they meet in Brussels.
"We are at a decisive moment in this process, no one should lose sight of the progress that's been achieved in Brussels and in London," Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, told reporters in Brussels on Monday.
"This is now our focus: the (political) declaration will open the door to a negotiation on an ambitious economic and strategic partnership in the future, once the U.K. has left," Barnier said, making it clear that the transition period — which is currently causing a political storm in Westminster — is not the same as the future relationship.
The transition period refers to the time after March 29, when the U.K. leaves the EU, and is set to last at least until 2020. During that time, the U.K. and the EU will negotiate the second phase of the Brexit process, which includes their future trade links.