European leaders will approve a post-Brexit transition period at a Brussels summit this week, EU President Donald Tusk said Wednesday, a day after raising concerns that some countries would not back the plan.
Spain in particular had raised objections to the transition deal hammered out by British and EU negotiators on Monday, due to concerns about the fate of the British territory of Gibraltar.
‘On Brexit, I have some good news for Prime Minister Theresa May. News that has been awaited in London but also in all the other EU capitals,’ Tusk told a news conference in Brussels.
‘I have just recommended to our leaders that we welcome in principle the agreement on transition. In practice the transition phase will allow us to delay all the negative consequences of Brexit by another 21 months.’
The former Polish prime minister added: ‘It is important not least for our people and businesses to bide this time so that everyone is prepared for the real impact of Brexit.’
The 27 leaders – who meet on the second day of the two-day summit on Friday without May – will also adopt guidelines for talks on post-Brexit relations including a trade deal.
Tusk said this would help ‘minimise the effect of Brexit.’
Tusk had said on Tuesday that it ‘remains open’ whether the 27 countries could approve the transition period, which lasts from the day Britain leaves on March 29, 2019 until December 21, 2020.
EU negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday that the two sides had made a ‘decisive step’ on finalising Britain’s withdrawal treaty, which should allow the unlocking of talks on a future trade deal in April.
Britain and the EU also agreed on Monday a ‘backstop’ solution for the thorny issue of the future of the Irish border, just weeks after Prime Minister Theresa May said no British premier could ever accept such an idea. 
But an EU official said Spain in particular had raised doubts over what happens with the British territory of Gibraltar, which the EU has already agreed must be the subject of an agreement between London and Madrid for any Brexit deal to take effect.
‘We reconsidered the question of Gibraltar in our guidelines and today I will present the final version of the draft of new guidelines including the question of Gibraltar,’ Tusk said.