The EU says much work still needs to be done on Brexit, despite agreeing a draft withdrawal document with the UK.
“We still have a long road ahead of us on both sides,” chief negotiator Michel Barnier said.
The EU has set out a series of meetings leading to one on 25 November where it plans to approve the Brexit agreement.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has won the backing of her cabinet but faces a tough task getting the agreement approved by Parliament.
A sign of that came on Thursday morning when Mr Barnier’s UK counterpart, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, resigned saying he could not “in good conscience” support the agreement. He was one of four ministers to quit.
Mrs May later defended the deal in the House of Commons, telling MPs it delivered on the Brexit referendum and provided for an orderly withdrawal.
Mr Barnier was speaking on Thursday morning alongside EU Council head Donald Tusk as the chief negotiator formally handed over the 585-page draft withdrawal agreement.
Mr Barnier said the agreement was fair and balanced, took into account the UK’s needs and laid the ground for an “ambitious new partnership”.
Mr Tusk praised Mr Barnier’s work and said the agreement had “secured the interests of the 27 member states and EU as a whole”.
He laid out the timetable for the days ahead.
- EU member states will analyse the document and at the end of the week national envoys will share their assessments
- A political declaration on future ties between the EU and the UK will be agreed by Tuesday and members will have 48 hours to evaluate it
- The EU Council will then meet on 25 November to finalise the agreement “if nothing extraordinary happens”, Mr Tusk said. The leaders of the 27 EU nations must approve the deal
Mr Tusk said: “Since the very beginning, we have had no doubt that Brexit is a lose-lose situation, and that our negotiations are only about damage control.”
Addressing the UK, he added: “As much as I am sad to see you leave, I will do everything to make this farewell the least painful possible, for you and for us.” (Excerpts from BBC)