EU diplomats have begun the process of preparing member countries to sign off on a Brexit deal, indicating an agreement with the U.K. could be imminent.
Hopes of reaching a deal governing future EU-U.K. relations once the Brexit transition period ends increased significantly in recent hours, EU diplomats said, adding that both sides have made important progress since Tuesday afternoon when EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier offered a rather negative outlook on the talks.
In a sign that a deal could be clinched as early as Wednesday evening, EU ambassadors are on standby for a potential briefing on Thursday morning, several EU diplomats said. A spokesperson for the German presidency of the Council of the EU said on Twitter that no such meeting had been scheduled yet.
However, an EU official and a diplomat both said the two sides were yet to agree on fisheries, which has long been a contentious issue in the talks. According to two diplomats, France is yet to be convinced on the issue. Writing in POLITICO, former U.K. government advisor Raoul Ruparel on Monday outlined a potential landing zone for the final deal.
A draft “non paper” sent to EU capitals on Wednesday and seen by POLITICO, indicates that EU countries will be asked to give the green light to an EU-U.K. Partnership Agreement. However, the draft document is not final request for approval and neither is it the full text of a deal. It still includes placeholders, for example stating that “the negotiations were completed on xx December 2020.”
Given time is so tight before the transition period ends on December 31, the draft document says that a deal should be adopted using an accelerated “provisional application” procedure. This only requires the consent of EU countries and the British side, while the European Parliament, which would generally vote on such a text before it became law, would vote on the deal retrospectively in January.
One EU diplomat said that the draft text is likely intended to prepare countries for a final deal. “The air is full of expectations but we aren’t there yet,” another EU diplomat said.
Brussels and London are under pressure to reach a deal before Thursday morning, which is the last possible date by which EU diplomats say it can still be implemented before year’s end, when the Brexit transition period ends.
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