European leaders finished a summit in Brussels agreeing that Britain has done enough to move on to the second phase of negotiations to leave the EU, but without any signs of agreement on matters of immigration.
European Council leader Donald Tusk put immigration high on the agenda for the two-day summit. He said at the end of the day Friday that EU leaders will find it “very hard” to reach a compromise in talks on a new policy for admitting refugees by a June deadline.
“Mandatory quotas remain a contentious issue although its temperature has decreased substantially,” Tusk told a press conference ending the summit.
“Will a compromise be possible? It appears very hard,” he said.
Divided on immigration
Officials say EU leaders continued a discussion on immigration Friday after a heated, more than a two-hour-long debate over migration on Thursday evening.
“The discussion was fierce because the differences of opinion are still wide,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said after those talks.
Tusk, who is a former Polish prime minister, has asked EU leaders to agree on a solution for the immigration crisis by June 2018.
European countries are divided over a number immigration issues, the most contentious being quotas.
Southern countries, including Italy and Greece, which take in a large number of asylum-seekers who reach their shores, want every EU member state to be required to take in refugees. Some eastern countries, including Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, oppose the refugee quotas.
Next phase of Brexit
On the issue of Brexit, EU leaders agreed to allow Britain to move onto the next phase of negotiations. The move was expected after British Prime Minister Teresa May traveled to Brussels last week to secure an agreement on the first phase of Britain leaving the European Union.
“There is still more to do, but we’re well on the road to delivering a Brexit that will make Britain prosperous, strong and secure,” May said.
The second phase of Brexit will be focused on post-Brexit relations between London and the European Union and any potential future trade agreements.