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EU to start internal talks on UK trade, draft text says

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European Union leaders are set next week to launch preliminary talks without Britain on the outline of the future EU-UK relationship once Britain leaves the bloc in 2019.

In a draft summit statement seen Friday by The Associated Press, the leaders order EU ministers and EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier “to start internal preparatory discussions” on future ties.

This would allow the EU to move quickly on elements like trade relations if negotiators make “sufficient progress” by December on the terms of the EU-U.K. divorce agreement.

Negotiations are moving slowly. EU leaders insist progress must be made on Britain’s divorce bill, the rights of citizens hit by Brexit and the future state of the Northern Ireland-Ireland border.

They refuse to talk about future relations, including trade, until that happens.

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