Theresa May is to make an emergency dash to Brussels on Saturday to complete the Brexit negotiations after the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, threatened to pull the plug on the Sunday leaders’ summit, The Guardian reports.
Sky reports that May said the pair having made “further progress” in a “very good” nearly two-hour meeting. The prime minister added “sufficient direction” had been given to the negotiators and that their talks would start “immediately”.
The meeting with Mr Juncker marks one of the last stages in almost two years of gruelling and complex negotiations over the terms of Britain’s exit and the outline of its future partnership with the EU. One EU diplomat said the Saturday meeting would have been unlikely to be scheduled at this point if a deal was not looking likely.
The failure to finalise a deal has raised questions over whether the EU summit on Sunday will still go ahead. It was originally billed as a chance for EU27 leaders to “rubber stamp” two documents – the withdrawal deal and a non-binding political agreement on the UK’s future relationship with Brussels.
It was this that triggered Merkel’s hesitation.
Merkel had let it be known through her diplomats in Brussels that she was unwilling to negotiate with May on Sunday at the extraordinary Brexit summit. She had demanded a finalised agreement to emerge in good time before the leaders’ meeting. The development threatened to disrupt Downing Street’s plans for agreement among leaders this month in time for a meaningful vote in parliament in early December.
Asked why a plan to complete the negotiations on Wednesday evening, ready for publication of the full Brexit deal on Thursday, had not come to pass, the prime minister said: “Well, there are some further issues that need resolution.
“We have given direction to our negotiators this evening. The work on those issues will now start immediately. I believe we have been able to given sufficient direction for them to be able to resolve those remaining issues.”
A commission spokesman said: “Very good progress was made in the meeting between President Juncker and Prime Minister Theresa May. Work is continuing.”
The Financial Times says that the “carefully chosen language indicates that talks have reached a point where the EU side can begin consulting EU member states on the substance of the declaration but are not yet ready to formally recommend the final text. The European Commission’s top officials will meet on Thursday morning to take stock of progress.”
The Independent says that the negotiators have just 24 hours left to resolve outstanding issues with the Brexit deal if a summit on Sunday is to go ahead, Brussels has warned. A senior EU official said on Wednesday that time was running out to produce a final text in time for the planned summit, with last-minute concerns around fishing rights and Gibraltar threatening to sink the plan.
It adds that although Britain and the European Commission struck a draft withdrawal agreement and future relationship plan last week, a number of member states have raised significant concerns with the proposals and declined to sign off.
The two sides have already signed off on the 585-page withdrawal agreement covering citizens’ rights, the £39bn financial settlement and the Irish border. Negotiators have been continuing to work on the terms of the political declaration, a seven-page outline of which was published last week.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez about her commitment to agreeing a Brexit deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom, including Gibraltar, May’s office said on Wednesday. – Reuters
The official pro-Brexit campaign group has lost a judicial review aimed at trying to get an Electoral Commission ruling that it breached spending limits thrown out.Vote Leave was challenging the findings of a report issued in July that it had exceeded the prescribed £7m limit by channeling funds via another campaign group, but the high court concluded on Wednesday that its case was groundless. – The Guardian