EU’s Barnier hopes Brexit deal possible in ‘coming weeks’

Britain is set to leave the European Union in March, but a Brexit agreement must be sealed in coming weeks to leave enough time for relevant parliaments to ratify it.

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier arrives for a meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool Photo via AP)

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier arrives for a meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool Photo via AP)

The European Union and Britain are seeking to get their divorce negotiations back on track at Wednesday’s Brexit summit after botched weekend talks pushed back expectations of a deal into November at the earliest.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Tuesday that negotiators are working towards ensuring Britain leaves the EU next March in an orderly fashion and to secure a comprehensive deal “in the coming weeks.”

Barnier’s time-horizon has shifted after talks hit an impasse on Sunday, dashing hopes of a breakthrough at this week’s two-day summit of the EU’s 28 leaders, including Britain’s Theresa May, in Brussels.

Speaking on the eve of the summit, Barnier said several issues still needed to be dealt with, including the future of the border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Many aspects of the divorce have already been agreed, such as what Britain owes the EU, but other aspects relating to the future relationship have still to be resolved, notably relating to the border on the island of Ireland.

“We are not there yet,” he said. “We will use that time, calmly, with serious intent to find the overall deal in the coming weeks.”

Related: B.C., federal privacy watchdogs to probe possible privacy breaches at Aggregate IQ, Facebook

Related: EU officials to meet Trump, wielding a $20-billion threat

Barnier’s comments have more or less put paid to any prospect of a decisive moment at this week’s summit. Since the Brexit discussions began over 18 months ago, this October’s summit had been earmarked as the most likely date for any agreement given the need to get necessary parliamentary approvals before Britain officially leaves the EU next March.

While hoping for a deal, the EU insisted Tuesday it is pressing forward with contingency plans to protect the 27 member states if Britain crashes out of the bloc on March 29 without a deal and without a transition period to the future relationship of the two sides. European Council president Donald Tusk has warned that the chances of Britain crashing out without a deal are higher than ever before.

Germany was exhorting British Prime Minister Theresa May to come to Wednesday’s summit with a positive message that could kick-start the stalled talks again.

“Take responsibility and be constructive,” said Germany’s Europe Minister Michael Roth when he arrived for talks with Barnier in Luxembourg.

In London, May urged her divided Cabinet to back her amid growing talk that several members are ready to resign in protest at her plans.

During a three-hour Cabinet meeting Tuesday, May said the government must “stand together and stand firm.”

The EU is waiting for new proposals from Britain. But May’s room for compromise is restricted by divisions within her Conservative Party, and by her reliance on Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which opposes any compromise on the border.

Several senior ministers, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, met privately over pizza on Monday evening and emerged professing support for the prime minister.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said “no one is planning on resigning. We are all doing our jobs and we are trying to get the best deal for this country, and that’s it.”

___

Lawless reported from London. Lorne Cook contributed from Brussels

Raf Casert And Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
County of Wetaskiwin closing Winfield Arena for the remainder of the 2020/2021 season

County Council made their decision at the Jan.26, 2021 County Council Meeting.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin COVID-19 numbers continue to drop

Fruition of provincial restrictions coming to light as active cases decline locally.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province still hopes to bring the hospitalization number down before relaxing restrictions. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
14 new deaths, 366 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta

Province nearing 100K COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Black Press file photo
Leduc RCMP investigate serious collision involving train

Leduc RCMP were called to a collision between a train and truck on Centre Street in New Sarepta.

Mom’s Diner owner Wesley Langlois has joined a growing number of Alberta restaurants that are allowing sit-in dining despite public health restrictions. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Red Deer diner joins sit-down dining protest

Mom’s Diner has joined a growing list of Alberta restaurants flouting health restrictions

Young hockey players were out on Bentley Tuesday for a march to a support a return to sports. (Photo courtesy of Bobby McKinlay)
(Kraft Dinner/Twitter)
Kraft Dinner launches candy-flavoured mac and cheese just in time for Valentine’s Day

Sweet and cheesy treat will be here just in time for the cheesiest holiday of the year

In this undated image made from a video taken by the Duke of Sussex and posted on @SaveChildrenUK by the Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, shows the Duchess of Sussex reading the book “Duck! Rabbit!” to their son Archie who celebrates his first birthday on Wednesday May 6, 2020. The Canadian Paediatric Society is reminding families that the process of raising a reader starts from birth. (Duke of Sussex/@SaveChildrenUK)
Canadian Paediatric Society says raising a reader starts from birth

CPS says literacy is one of the strongest predictors of lifelong health outcomes

Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough responds to a question during a news conference Thursday August 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Easing rules for parental benefits created inequities among parents, documents say

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough’s office says the government will make any necessary changes

People walk along a pedestrianized zone of Sainte-Catherine street in Montreal, Monday, May 18, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. Newly released statistics point to a major drop in police-recorded crime during the first eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Crime down in first 8 months of pandemic, but mental health calls rise: StatCan

The agency says violent crimes such as assault dropped significantly

(Photo submitted)
Central Alberta researchers recognized for studies in agricultural sciences

Jessica Sperber of Ponoka and David MacTaggart of Lacombe awarded prestigious scholarship

FILE – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening remarks at a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine CEO ‘very, very clear’ that Canada’s contracts will be honoured: Trudeau

Trudeau says he spoke to Moderna CEO on the morning of Jan. 26

Most Read