European Council President Donald Tusk will warn British Prime Minister Theresa May at a summit in Sweden on Friday (17 November) that “more work” is needed to reach a Brexit deal in December, according to sources.
Tusk’s spokesman, Preben Aamann, confirmed on Twitter that the European Council chief will meet May “to discuss Brexit” at 1130 GMT on the sidelines of a summit on jobs and growth in the Swedish port city of Gothenburg.
May will also discuss Brexit with the Irish and Swedish prime ministers as a deadline looms for Britain to make progress on key divorce issues in order to move on to trade talks next month as hoped, officials said.
Updated weekly schedule: https://t.co/ahbFTRJzFd
— Preben Aamann (@PrebenEUspox) November 16, 2017
“Tusk will inform May that such a positive scenario is not a given, will require more work and that time is short,” an EU source told AFP Thursday.
“And he will ask May how the UK plans to progress on the three key issues for phase 1.”
The EU demands that Britain makes sufficient progress on its exit bill, on avoiding a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the EU state of Ireland, and on the rights of three million EU citizens living in Britain.
The source said Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, will say that progress on the divorce “will allow for a positive outcome” at the EU’s next Brussels summit on December 14 to move to the second phase, the sources said.
He will discuss with May the internal preparations the bloc is making for negotiations on future relations, including a possible trade deal and a transition period, the source added.
‘It’s a myth’
May is due to meet Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven on Thursday night and then Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar over breakfast on Friday, May’s spokesman said.
“You can expect Brexit to come up, along with other issues of importance,” the spokesman added.
While the most contentious issue in the Brexit talks has long been the €40-60 billion that the EU says Britain owes the bloc, the Irish border issue has lately emerged as a new headache for negotiators.
The EU this month suggested that Northern Ireland should effectively stay in a customs union with the bloc but British negotiator David Davis said any Brexit solution “cannot amount to creating a new border inside the United Kingdom”.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned last week that Britain had two weeks to meet the bloc’s conditions if it wanted a deal at the December meeting.
An EU diplomat ruled out the chance of any last-minute deal, saying: “No, that is not possible. To think that you can present an offer only at the European Council or 24 hours before, is a myth.”
Failure to do so would push back a decision until February or March, leaving little time for trade talks before Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.