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‘Congratulations Prime Minister’: Tusk reveals EU leaders have FINALLY signed off on May’s divorce deal to open the door for trade talks

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Brussels immediately laid down the law today as it set out a tough new negotiating position today after EU leaders finally signed off on the Brexit divorce deal.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the next round of talks would be ‘tougher’ than the last 10 months after she and the other 26 EU leaders agreed Britain had made ‘sufficient progress’ on the divorce.

The EU is insisting on agreeing a transition deal before it will open full-blown trade talks. The delay will take until at least March.

EU Council President Donald Tusk offered a lifeline to the PM at a press conference, admitted ‘exploratory contacts’ on a future trade deal can begin immediately.

Official negotiating guidelines produced by Mr Tusk demand Britain keeps all EU law during the interim period – including freedom of movement, a ban on new trade deals and rulings from the EU court.

Britain has said the transition period should last no more than two years and Mrs May wants a trade deal ready to kick in by exit day on March 29, 2019.

In a boost for Mrs May, leading Brexiteer Sir Bill Cash told MailOnline he endorsed her handling of the talks so far and backed her to ‘work out’ a transition deal that works for Britain.

After a summit in Brussels, Mr Tusk tweeted ‘congratulations’ to Theresa May for passing the milestone in the marathon Brexit process.

The Prime Minister declared the moment an ‘important step on the road to delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit and forging our deep and special future partnership’.