News that the European Commission scheduled talks with EU lawmakers ahead of a crunch meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May on December 4 is a good sign – one that suggests a Brexit deal between Brussels and London is within reach.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier are scheduled to brief Guy Verhofstadt and his European Parliament Brexit team just two hours before meeting with May.
Last week, Verhofstadt and his colleagues wrote to the EU negotiators warning about the “stalled” talks on EU demands and calling for the rights of EU citizens in Britain to be guaranteed directly by the European Court of Justice after Britain leaves the EU. They also stated their concern about Northern Ireland.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, the European Parliament must ratify any treaty on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU before Brexit in March 2019. This is why it is vital to both sides to keep MEPs on board.
According to Reuters, senior EU officials and diplomats said work was continuing on December 3. One person close to the discussions said the situation was “delicate”. “It’s still quite fluid,” said a second person involved. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister and strong critic of Brexit, declined to comment.
Manfred Weber, the German leader of the centre-right group in the EU parliament, warned that lawmakers were not yet satisfied.
“On Brexit negotiations, money is one of the problems, but it is not the biggest one,” he said in a statement. “We are much more concerned about the fact that so far negotiations are stalled on the protection of EU citizens’ rights after Brexit and on the Irish case,” he said.
According to Reuters, the EU wants outline accords on three critical divorce terms before it will open negotiations on the transition and a future free trade pact that would follow. May’s lunch on December 4 is a deadline for the EU to have her final offers before EU leaders consider whether to agree at a December 15 summit to launch Phase 2.