Today the EU Council meet in Brussels to decide whether to support the agreement reached last Friday by the Prime Minister and the EU Commission on Phase One of the Brexit negotiations.
It is welcome news that the Prime Minister has confirmed a new sense of optimism in the talks. It is in the interests of both Britain and the EU for us to establish the best possible relationship after we leave.
Since triggering Article 50 on 29th March, there have been detailed discussions to ensure agreement on key issues, before future trade discussions begin. The agreement, successfully negotiated by the Prime Minister, secures the rights of the three million EU citizens living here and the million British citizens living in the EU; represents a fair settlement of the accounts and maintains the Common Travel Area with Ireland, which has operated since the 1920s; and sets out both sides' determination to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, while respecting the integrity of the UK Single Market.
I am particularly pleased this allows us to reassure EU citizens living in the UK, especially the 62,000 NHS staff and 90,000 people working in the social care sector, that they are very welcome to stay and make clear the rights they will continue to enjoy after Brexit. This agreement also provides certainty for those UK citizens living in other EU countries.
So this agreement is welcome news for those who supported Brexit, who may have been concerned that lack of progress in negotiations would mean Brexit may not happen. But it is also encouraging for those who voted Remain and were concerned we may crash out without a deal. This was evidenced by the broad welcome the agreement received in the House of Commons, from both leave and remain supporters. We are going to leave but we are going to do so in a smooth and orderly way.
While the Government has been incredibly clear about the plan for Brexit, the Labour Party has had 12 different plans since the referendum - and all of them would mean sacrificing control over our money, laws and borders.
It is now vital we move swiftly on to important trade negotiations, to deliver in the best interests of people and businesses in the UK. The government is hoping to conclude negotiations in good time next year, to allow for substantive ratification votes by both the British and EU Parliaments.