Brussels says UK must abide by EU rules until 2021 as next phase of talks get green light
European leaders have given the green light to phase two of the Brexit negotiations - but told Britain it must abide by EU rules until 2021.
European Council president Donald Tusk announced the move on Twitter and offered his "congratulations" to Theresa May.
The Prime Minister said it was "an important step on the road to delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit".
Talks will now begin on the terms of the two-year post-Brexit transition deal which the Government hopes to strike with the EU.
A three-page European Council document published by this morning made clear that in return for continued access to the single market and customs union, Britain must follow the EU's "four freedoms", including freedom of movement.
The UK must also continue to abide by the rulings of the European Court of Justice, and will not be allowed to sign any new trade deals with other countries.
And as it will no longer be an EU member, Britain will have no influence on setting the rules of the bloc.
The document says: "Such transitional arrangements, which will be part of the withdrawal agreement, must be in the interest of the Union, clearly defined and precisely limited in time.
"In order to ensure a level playing field based on the same rules applying throughout the single market, changes to the acquis adopted by EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies will have to apply both in the United Kingdom and the EU.
"All existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures will also apply, including the competence of the Court of Justice of the European Union.
"As the United Kingdom will continue to participate in the customs union and the single market (with all four freedoms) during the transition, it will have to continue to comply with EU trade policy, to apply EU customs tariff and collect EU customs duties, and to ensure all EU checks are being performed on the border vis-à-vis other third countries."
Mrs May will hope that Tory Brexiteers are willing to accept those conditions as the price of leaving the EU on 29 March, 2019.
Brexit Secretary David Davis welcomed the announcement.