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.
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.
Angela Merkel has now also threatened to pull out of the summit if no agreement is ready in time for the meeting, according to diplomats in Brussels. The ultimatum is being interpreted as a bid to avoid late-night sessions of face-to-face negotiations between leaders.
The commission is keen that the Sunday summit be little more than a glorified rubber-stamp, with the deal having been signed off beforehand – but the stipulation appears to be risking the entire meeting.
Commission vice president Valdis Dombrovskis told reporters in Brussels that a final agreement would have to be done before a key meeting of national officials on Friday at the latest, if it was to be ready for the Sunday summit.
“We will need to have agreed beforehand on the political declaration on the future relationship and we are not there yet,” he said, addressing the issue of the summit.
“Sherpas are due to meet on Friday. Of course they will need to see a final text before then and the commission stands ready to consider the text and take any action at any time.”
Asked if Sunday’s special EU summit to sign off the Brexit deal could be cancelled because of the deadlock, the prime minister’s spokesman said: “A summit has been called, an agenda has been published and we look forward to attending.” Read more
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