Dec. 15 (UPI) -- The separation of Britain from the European Union can enter its second phase, European Council President Donald Tusk announced on Friday.
Tusk made the statement, acknowledging that first-phase "divorce issues" like financial liabilities and citizens' rights were successfully resolved. The second phase is expected to see negotiation on the long-term conditions of the relationship between Britain and the EU. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the next step in the process will be "significantly harder."
British business organizations welcomed the shift to the next phase, which will include the framework for a trade deal.
"It is our collective view that the transition period must now be agreed as soon as possible, to give businesses in every region and nation of the United Kingdom time to prepare for the future relationship. Further delays to discussions on an EU-U.K. trade deal could have damaging consequences for business investment and trade, as firms in 2018 review their investment plans and strategies," a message collectively sent by five British trade organizations read in part.
While talks regarding the transition could resume by next week, guidelines for trade negotiations will not be issued until March. The delay indicates that Britain will be expected to adhere to EU regulations until at least 2019 without any involvement in their design or enforcement.
British Prime Minister Theresa May will meet with her cabinet on Tuesday to discuss the country's vision for what it calls its "end-state" status after Britain leaves the EU.