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Business leaders welcome agreement on Brexit trade talks

There was support from cabinet members after progress was announced.

The announcement that Brexit talks are set to move on to issues of trade and transition was welcomed by UK business leaders.

But opposition politicians questioned whether the deal struck between the UK and the European Commission would satisfy hardline Brexiteers on the Conservative benches.

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: “It went right down to the wire, but businesses will be breathing a huge sigh of relief.”

He added: “The most pressing concern for UK companies has been their EU staff, who have urgently needed certainty about their future in this country.

“We have grounds to hope now that our members will be able to send their employees off for the Christmas break feeling more comfortable about their status here.”

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, who are fighting for UK voters to be given a second referendum on any final Brexit deal, said: “So Theresa May has finally got a deal, but how long before it’s torn apart by her own MPs?

“It should be the British people, not Tory Brexiters and DUP, who get to decide whether this deal is good enough.”

The Lib Dem spokesman said there was “still no solution over how to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland” in the text of the joint report. A huge obstacle to the Government’s Brexit plans is being kicked into the long grass,” he said.

Ex-Ukip leader Nigel Farage said on Twitter: “A deal in Brussels is good news for Mrs May as we can now move on to the next stage of humiliation.”

In a statement, Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses will be breathing a sigh of relief that ‘sufficient progress’ has been achieved. After the noise and political brinksmanship of recent days, news of a breakthrough in the negotiations will be warmly welcomed by companies across the UK.”

“For business, a swift start to trade talks is crucial to upcoming investment and growth decisions. Companies all across the UK want absolute clarity on the long-term deal being sought, and want government to work closely with business experts to ensure that the details are right.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond congratulated the Mrs May, saying on Twitter: “Delighted a deal agreed in Brussels that paves way for further progress on talks about future UK/EU relationship. A positive step.

“Today’s announcement in Brussels is a boost for Britain’s economy. Now let’s conclude a trade deal that supports Britain’s jobs, businesses and prosperity.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted it was time for Mrs May’s critics “to recognise her extraordinary strength & resilience which, whatever the hurdles ahead, will deliver stage 2 just as it has delivered stage 1”.

Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Move to phase 2 of talks good – but devil is in the detail and things now get really tough.

“If #Brexit is happening (wish it wasn’t) staying in single market & customs union is only sensible option. And any special arrangements for NI must be available to other UK nations.”

The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted a video of a sprinter jumping hurdles with the caption: “First #Brexit hurdles taken … more to come.”

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