Mon | Nov 18, 2019

Brexit talks close in on tentative deal before summit

Published:Thursday | October 17, 2019 | 10:21 AM
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (second right), and European Council President Donald Tusk (second left), pose during a group photo during a tripartite summit in Brussels yesterday. (AP)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (second right), and European Council President Donald Tusk (second left), pose during a group photo during a tripartite summit in Brussels yesterday. (AP)

BRUSSELS (AP):

French President Emmanuel Macron said he hopes the European Union and Britain were on the cusp of concluding a tentative Brexit deal that leaders would seek to complete at a summit Thursday,

The French leader said Wednesday that “I want to believe that a deal is being finalised and that we can approve it tomorrow,” when EU leaders are meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Brussels.

Hopes were increasingly turning toward getting a broad political commitment, with the full legal details hammered out later. Negotiators were locked in EU headquarters with few details leaking out. Wild movements in the British pound on Wednesday underscored the uncertainty over what, if anything, might be decided.

Meetings between EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and key EU legislators as well as with ambassadors of the member nations were rescheduled for the evening – an indication there was still momentum in the ongoing talks among technical teams from both sides.

“It looks like things are moving,” said an EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because talks were still ongoing.

possible good deal

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, echoed that, saying there is still “a chance of securing a good deal” at the summit, even though a number of issues remain.

The thorniest among them is how goods and people will flow across the land border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK.

But Northern Ireland is not the only issue. An eventual withdrawal agreement would be a legal treaty laying out the terms of Britain’s departure and setting up a transition period in which relations would remain as they are now at least until the end of 2020, to give people and businesses time to adjust to new rules. It will guarantee the rights of EU citizens in Britain, and British nationals living elsewhere in the EU, to continue with their lives.

But it leaves many questions about the future unanswered, and Britain’s departure is sure to be followed by years of negotiations on trade and other issues.

Even if a provisional deal is inked this week, moves in the British Parliament could still mean another delay to Britain’s departure, currently due to take place on October 31.