By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) - British Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday she is “positive and optimistic” about moving on in Brexit negotiations.
May’s comments came in a news conference as the leaders of the remaining 27 members of the bloc convened to discuss whether enough progress have been made in Brexit talks and signaled their willingness to move on as well.
“Brexit conclusions adopted. Leaders green-light internal EU27 preparations for 2nd phase,” European Council President Donald Tusk said on Twitter shortly after.
However, he concluded that "insufficient progress" had been made in Brexit negotiations over issues such as citizens' rights, the U.K.'s financial obligation and the post-Brexit border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Tusk’s statement means the EU will initiate the internal discussions but will not be committed to start the second stage of negotiations in December.
May reiterated she believed the sides were “in touching distance” for a deal on citizens’ rights, adding that both sides will commit to the Belfast Agreement peace deal in discussions about the border issue in Northern Ireland.
She added that the U.K. will honor its financial commitments due to EU membership.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday said there were encouraging signs that Brexit negotiations could move onto the next stage where future trade deals between the U.K. and the EU will be discussed in December.
Juncker on Monday said the U.K. would have to pay a final Brexit bill, which according to estimates, could reach up to £100 billion ($132 billion) -- before they could move negotiations to the next phase.
British voters opted to leave the EU in a referendum over a year ago and Brexit negotiations are expected to be finalized in March 2019.