With just days to go before a key Brexit summit next week, optimism is growing that a deal can be reached to ensure a smooth transition for Britain’s exit from the EU.
EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger on Friday said that he sees room for a breakthrough in the talks next week, when leaders from the 27 EU nations meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Oettinger confirmed reports that progress was being made on the difficult issue of the UK border with Ireland.
“It does appear possible there will be a breakthrough,” he said.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he spoke to May by telephone on Friday and added that “we hope that next week at the European summit, if at all possible, the first results emerge.”
“I am cautiously optimistic that we can take steps next week, but a lot depends on the talks happening in the coming days,” Rutte told a weekly news conference.
Even if the negotiators agree on a deal, it is not the end of the matter. The EU leaders must also back the deal, and then so must the British and EU parliaments.
May in particular is likely to have a tough time selling a deal to the British House of Commons, which is divided on the issue of Brexit and on what terms to leave the EU.
The UK is slated to leave the EU on March 29 next year.
If there is no deal on relations by then, widespread chaos on the borders is expected. Tariffs could go up on trade, customs checks could delay goods and airplanes could not have permits to fly across the borders, among other things.
EU leaders have a two-day summit starting on Wednesday to assess the progress in the talks and if there is no breakthrough there, another summit could be planned for next month.
In London, British Secretary of State for Exiting the EU Dominic Raab cautioned not to be too optimistic and warned against a compromise that would give away too much.
“If the EU doesn’t match the ambition and pragmatism we’ve showed, we have the plans in place to avoid, mitigate or manage the risk of no deal — and make a success of Brexit,” he said as the British government released the last 29 of 104 technical papers on preparations for a no-deal.
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