Sufficient progress has been made in Brexit talks, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says, paving the way for the second phase of negotiations.
The European Commission says sufficient progress has been made in Brexit negotiations with Britain to allow a second phase of talks on future relations to begin, ending an impasse over the status of the Irish border.
The Commission gave its verdict in a statement after intense talks, which resulted in British Prime Minister Theresa May taking an early-morning flight to Brussels on Friday to announce the deal alongside Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
The Commission's recommendation that sufficient progress has been made will now go to the European Union summit of leaders taking place next week.
"Prime Minister May has assured me that it has the backing of the UK government. On that basis, I believe we have now made the breakthrough we need. Today's result is of course a compromise," Juncker told a news conference.
May said she expected a formal agreement to be approved at the summit, which begins on December 14.
"I also look forward to next week's European Council meeting, where I hope and expect we will be able to get the endorsement of the 27 (member countries) to what is a hard-won agreement in all our interests," May said.
The commission said it was ready to begin work immediately on phase two talks, which cover a transitional exit period, trade and long-term relations with the bloc.
May said intensive talks over the past few days had delivered "a hard-won agreement in all our interests".
"It is crucial for us all that we continue working closely together on issues such as trade, research, security and others," he said.
"We will take things one step at a time, starting with next week's European Council, but today I am hopeful that we are all moving towards the second phase of these challenging negotiations and we can do this jointly on the basis of renewed trust, determination and with the perspective of a renewed friendship."
May's key parliamentary ally in Northern Ireland gave a cautious endorsement of the new terms, four days after 11th-hour objections from Belfast scuppered May's attempt to sign off on an accord over the Irish border during a lunch in Brussels on Monday.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the border agreement meant there was no way Brexit could lead to a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland - what will become the only land frontier between Britain and the EU after Brexit.
"Very good outcome for everyone on the island of Ireland - no Hard Border guaranteed!," Coveney said on Twitter.
In the text, Britain agreed that should London and Brussels fail to agree on a final Brexit deal, the United Kingdom will maintain "full alignment" with those rules of the internal market and customs union that help to protect north-south co-operation in Ireland.