British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Union (EU) leaders announced a deal on Friday that enables Brexit talks to move to the next phase.

The agreement includes:

  • The terms of Britain's financial obligations to the bloc, which could total some 50 billion euros ($59 billion) to be paid out over four years
  • A guarantee of no “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic thereby preserving the “constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom,” according to May
  • That both EU citizens in the United Kingdom--and UK citizens in the EU--will see their rights protected. Approximately three million EU citizens live in the UK and over a million UK citizens reside in the EU states.

Discussions can now move forward on the potentially tougher issue of a future trading relationship between the UK and the EU. However, it was agreed in this round that if no UK-EU trade deal were reached, the UK would maintain “full alignment” with elements of the EU single market and customs union. This would ensure support of the economy of the island of Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement, such as agriculture and energy.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the agreement was a “breakthrough” and that he was confident EU leaders will approve it. Leaders of the 27 EU countries are slated to meet next week for a European Council summit and need to give their backing to the deal if post-Brexit trade talks are to begin.

The UK will have about a year to hammer out an agreement on future relations, which will need to be ratified by all EU nations and the UK Parliament, before the UK leaves in March 2019.

 Additional sources: CNN, BBC