Prime Minister Theresa May said she would be returning to Brussels on Saturday to finalise an Article 50 deal, shaping Britain’s future ties with the European Union after her meeting with the head of the bloc’s top executive Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday failed to bridge the gaps.
Theresa May met European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker for about an hour and a half to try to win commitments aimed at helping her appease rebels at home, including her own camp, opposed to her draft Brexit treaty.
“There were some remaining issues which we have discussed,” May said afterwards. “I will be returning on Saturday for further meetings, including again with President Juncker to discuss how we can ensure that we can conclude this process.”
With just over four months before Britain’s departure, May is trying to conclude the Article 50 deal for a summit of EU leaders on Sunday, November 25, due to endorse the Brexit accord.
Raising the stakes, EU diplomats said they had been told that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was not willing to come on Sunday for any more talks, meaning a consensus over the deal text must be reached in advance.
Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sanchez warned he would vote against the draft deal unless he wins assurances over the disputed peninsula of Gibraltar.
May said negotiators from both sides would continue working on the text. “I believe we have been able to give sufficient direction for them to be able to resolve those remaining issues,” she said.
A spokesman for the European Commission said “very good progress” was made at May’s meeting with Juncker: “Work is continuing.”
Diplomats in Brussels said EU states’ concerns over fishing rights and future trade ties had largely been addressed in the political declaration on the EU-UK future ties that would form a package with the legally binding divorce deal, meaning Spain’s concerns were the final issue to be settled.
“The only thing really outstanding is Gibraltar,” said one EU diplomat.