(Bloomberg) — Brexit talks hang in the balance as negotiators work through the weekend, with neither side confident they will clinch a deal in time to meet a self-imposed deadline of Monday.
People familiar with both sides of the negotiation, who declined to be named, said there were obstacles to a deal over the thorniest issue of all — how to avoid a border emerging on the island of Ireland without erecting one between Northern Ireland and Britain. The European Commission told ambassadors on Friday that it was a make-or-break weekend.
Both sides are aiming for progress ahead of a summit on Wednesday that could pave the way to the deal being signed in November. But as Prime Minister Theresa May fights off growing criticism of her negotiating stance at home, two key bits of the choreography are yet to be confirmed: A visit by Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab to Brussels on Monday and a dinner for May and her European counterparts on Wednesday.
May says this will only be temporary, but her spokeswoman was forced to clarify the point after media reports that the final “backstop” arrangement will have no legal end date.
“The prime minister would never agree to a deal which could trap the UK in a backstop permanently,” she said.
The Downing Street spokeswoman repeated that Britain wanted a new trade deal by the end of December 2021 at the latest, although she declined to confirm the backstop would be “time-limited”.
Her careful words only fuelled speculation of a compromise with Brussels, although Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab later said the backstop would have to be “finite”, “short” and “time-limited”.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May has had trouble convincing her own cabinet of her Brexit plansBritain’s Prime Minister Theresa May has had trouble convincing her own cabinet of her Brexit plans (AFP Photo/HENRY NICHOLLS)
Brussels (AFP) – Last-ditch talks between London and Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiators failed to agree a draft divorce settlement on Sunday, still blocked on the issue of the Northern Irish border just days before a make-or-break European Union summit.