The remaining 27 nations in the European Union have now opened the door for trade negotiations by endorsing a deal on Britain’s 21-month transition to Brexit and approving guidelines designed to deliver a “balanced, ambitious and wide-ranging” free trade agreement with the UK.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier described the agreement as a “decisive” moment. As Theresa May put it, there now appears to be a new dynamic in the negotiations with a “spirit of co-operation” as both sides focus minds on making mutually-beneficial arrangements for the future.
But while this is undoubtedly promising, it may well prove to be the calm before the storm in the next stage of negotiations. All manner of problematic issues have the potential to cause rancour and will require considerable political skill to resolve to the satisfaction of all parties - from fishing waters to Gibraltar and the Irish border to name a few.
However, the progress to date, while painstaking, shows there is the ability to overcome difficulties and move things forward - driven in part by an increasing acceptance on the EU side that Brexit is going to happen and will not be derailed.
Credit must be given to the Prime Minister for repeatedly making it clear she is determined to deliver on the result of 2016’s referendum. But the clock is ticking ever-closer towards Britain’s departure. Now the real work begins.