Stormont parties united in welcoming Brexit phase two negotiations
THE north's main parties have welcomed the EU leaders' agreement to move Brexit talks on to their second phase.
The first issue to be discussed early in the new year will be an expected two-year transition period after the UK's exit in March 2019.
Talks on trade and security co-operation are set to follow in March.
DUP MEP Diane Dodds said the next phase was the "crux of negotiations" and called for speedy agreement on the implementation period of the new EU-UK trading relationship.
"It is important that the withdrawal agreement reached is a holistic deal covering all areas and not done in a piecemeal manner," she said.
Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson said Ireland and continued north-south relations needed to be at the heart of the next phase of the negotiations.
Speaking from Brussels, she said it was "essential" that the talks address "the border, protecting north-south co-operation and trade, and citizens' rights".
SDLP MLA Claire Hanna commended the Dublin government for its "firm but fair approach" and its desire to protect the entire island from the worst impacts of Brexit.
"London has discovered and begun to accept over recent months that several of their aims are incompatible and we hope that their position continues to evolve in phase two," she said.
Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said while Brexit was a "deep and fundamental error" it was important that the negotiations progressed smoothly.
"If the UK as a whole does not opt for a very soft Brexit, then Northern Ireland must remain with the single market," he said.