THE EU27 agreed at their summit to let Brexit talks move on to phase two. Talks on transition, from January, and on an outline framework for a future trade deal, from March, will be the new focus.

The EU’s guidelines are tough, if unsurprising.

The EU27 have also done their best to “David Davis-proof” the talks – insisting discussions will continue only if last week’s phase one agreement, on EU citizens’ rights, the divorce bill and Northern Ireland, is respected “faithfully” and turned rapidly into legal terms.

The EU leaders have offered to negotiate a “precisely” time-limited transition – also noting the UK’s desire for that to last about two years. Those who hoped for a longer transition that might even morph into a permanent “soft” Brexit will be disappointed.

In transition, according to the EU27, the UK would be under all EU laws and structures, including free movement of people, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and EU trade policy (including the customs union) until some time early in 2021. But unlike now the UK will have neither voice nor vote.

Plenty of rows lie ahead. The government is likely to resist having to give full rights to EU27 citizens who come to the UK during the transition. And the hard Brexiteers may try to resist staying under the ECJ and any new EU laws. The UK will also want to be able to negotiate new trade deals outside Europe despite being temporarily in the EU customs union. Whether there will be wiggle room here is so far unclear.

On a future trade deal, the EU27 acknowledge the UK goal of leaving the EU’s single market and customs union. They underline they will continue to protect the EU single market, avoid “upsetting” relations with other third countries and ensure a level playing field.

That means no special sector deals, no cherry-picking, no full single market access while not respecting all EU rules or free movement or the European Court of Justice. It also means the EU27 are not, as of now, working on the basis that the UK may have a “soft” Norway-style Brexit. It sounds, indeed, more like the “Canada-dry” approach EU negotiator Michel Barnier has frequently mentioned.

So however the EU27 think the circle can be squared of last week’s crucial joint agreement to keep the Ireland/Northern Ireland border open – including the UK commitment to “full alignment” with EU rules as a backstop – the starting point of trade and transition talks is not a soft Brexit approach. A major UK-EU27 stand-off is, then, likely in spring or summer 2018 on how to keep to the commitments on Northern Ireland.

The EU27 are also clear their goal on the EU-UK trade deal is simply a political declaration by autumn 2018; there will be no complete trade deal by then or by March 2019. And indeed, to negotiate a UK-EU, Canada-style deal – plus pillars on security, defence and judicial cooperation – even by 2021 will be tough. If it can be done, it will be a basic deal at best.

Both in the Brexit talks and in UK politics, some big rows and debates lie ahead. But for now, the pointers are still towards a hard Brexit.

Kirsty Hughes is director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations