‘Sufficient progress’ in Brexit talks
Eropean unon chief Donald Tusk said overnight he was “encouraged” by progress in divorce talks with Britain, and said that both sides were getting closer to the point where they can start focusing negotiations on future trade relations.
The comments came as British Prime Minister Theresa May made a diplomatic push in Brussels, where she started meeting with top European Union officials on Monday in an effort to get a belated breakthrough.
Mrs May met with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and will later speak with EU Council President Tusk amid hopes to make progress on the questions of Britain’s exit bill, the Irish border and the rights of citizens.Merry Christmas: Trump pushes for tax cuts
Only then will the EU accept to move on to speaking about future relations, including trade. Mr Tusk said a breakthrough had come in the talks on the Irish border, as reported to him by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
“Tell me why I like Mondays!” Mr Tusk wrote in an optimistic Twitter message after his phone call with Dublin. “Getting closer to sufficient progress,” he said.
“Sufficient progress” is short for what the EU wants to see on the divorce issues before trying to get a new trade deal before Britain leaves the EU on March 29, 2019.How to become a millionaire - according to the people who have already done it
Mrs May made her entrance at EU headquarters around the same time, smiling and courteous, as she shook hands with Mr Juncker and both went inside the EU headquarters for talks.
Diplomats have been negotiating relentlessly over the past days to meet an EU imposed deadline of Monday and the European Parliament’s chief Brexit official said it was “50/50 to have something.”
Guy Verhofstadt added that a financial settlement on the divorce was as good as done — “it seems, yes” — while the talks on citizens’ rights and Ireland’s border still had outstanding issues to solve.Paradise Papers shine on the world's rich
Britain is set to leave the EU on March 29, 2019 yet the progress on its exit and the terms of new relations have been painfully slow.
The 27 other member states need to declare there is enough progress on the three divorce issues during their December 14-15 summit before the talks can start including future relations, something which is paramount for hard-pressed Britain.
Yet the talks were still fraught with difficulties. Mr Juncker first met with Brexit experts from the European Parliament, which will eventually have to endorse any departure deal.VW explores UK banking licence ahead of Brexit
And Mr Verhofstadt warned that unless all issues are solved “there will be no green light in October 2018.”
A decision on any new deals with Britain would have to be reached by the fall of next year to give individual member states enough time to approve all the measures in their parliaments before the final date on March 29, 2019.
Manfred Weber, the chief of the EPP Christian Democrats’ group in the EU parliament, said his group still saw plenty of hurdles.Will Germany's economic growth help Merkel?
Mr Weber said in a tweet that even if the issue of the outstanding bill had made major progress, “we are much more concerned about the fact that negotiations are stalled on the protection of EU citizens’ rights & on the Irish case.”
Mr Coveney held out hope, though. “We are not quite yet where we need to be, but it is possible to do that today,” he said.