Estonia will take over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2017, six months earlier than planned, after Britain gave up its right to do so, a European Council spokesman said.
Ambassadors to the EU met in Brussels after Britain said it needed to focus instead on negotiating the country's exit from the European Union.
Slovakia is the current holder of the rotating presidency, to be followed by Malta in the first half of 2017. Estonia had been due to follow for the first half of 2018, with Bulgaria for the subsequent six months.
"The solution is that everybody moves forward by half a year," a Council spokesman said, adding that the agreement by ambassadors still needed formal approval from the 28 member states.
For Estonia it represents a slight setback because the initial presidency plan timetable for the first half of 2018 would have coincided with the country's 100th anniversary.
Earlier Britain said that it will give up its planned presidency of the European Council, due to start in July 2017, to focus on negotiating the country's exit from the European Union, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday.
The decision, reached in a phone call between May and EU Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday evening, reflects the scale of the task facing Britain as it seeks to negotiate a new relationship with the EU after a June 23 public vote to leave.
"The Prime Minister suggested that the UK should relinquish the rotating Presidency of the Council, currently scheduled for the second half of 2017, noting that we would be prioritising the negotiations to leave the European Union," the spokeswoman said.
"The Prime Minister explained that we will need to carefully prepare for the negotiations to leave the EU before triggering Article 50," she said, referring to the formal legal process for leaving the bloc.
"Donald Tusk reassured the Prime Minister that he will help to make this process happen as smoothly as possible."
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