May patches up deal ahead of summit
Negotiators are still trying to resolve outstanding issues with the Brexit deal if the planned EU summit on Sunday is to go ahead.
An EU source said yesterday (Wednesday) that time was running out to produce a final text for the summit with issues surrounding fishing rights and Gibraltar threatening to block a deal.
Although Britain and the European Commission agreed on a draft withdrawal deal and future relationship plan last week, several member states have raised concerns with the proposals.
European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said a final agreement was needed before a key meeting of member states tomorrow (Friday) if it was to be prepared 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,” the Latvian commission deputy said.
“[Representatives] 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.”
Germany has warned EU ambassadors that Chancellor Angela Merkel will pull out of the summit to sign off UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal unless member states end infighting over the UK-EU trade deal.
And UK finance minister Philip Hammond said Brexit would be thrown into chaos if MPs voted down May’s deal next month, assuming it was endorsed by the rest of the EU at the weekend. The chancellor said yesterday: “If this deal is rejected, we’re in unknown territory. It could be no deal, but it could be no Brexit.”
Asked about Brexiteer fears that the Irish backstop agreement could keep the UK in the customs union indefinitely, he said: “The first choice is to get the future partnership deal done in time that we can move straight into that from the implementation period. It’s challenging, but let’s try.
“[The EU member states] don’t like the backstop either. This is an insurance policy arrangement that nobody wants to see put into operation.”
He said there were other considerations than the economic hardship caused by Brexit.
The former remain campaigner said: “This isn’t only about economics. I’m the chancellor so I look at the economic aspects of Brexit as being of very high importance. But I accept that there are also political and constitutional questions that people want to pursue in this debate.“
A people’s vote looks more likely. Picture credit: Eurasia Times