A Brexit deal will probably not be signed with the United Kingdom at October’s European Council summit. The Independent has learned that EU negotiators have abandoned all hope that securing settlements on major outstanding issues in the remaining three-and-a-half months.
The EU officials were speaking after last week’s European Council summit which saw the bloc focus on tackling immigration from north Africa, while warning British Prime Minister Theresa May that time to secure a deal is now running out.
One Brussels insider told The Independent: “There is no hope really for October now. We don’t know exactly what she is asking for yet, so how can there be?
“First the UK needs to decide what it wants, then there needs to be a discussion here and even if it is acceptable, there are processes that have to take place first before everyone agrees to move forward.”
Another source close to the European Commission told The Independent: “Now we are looking at December as a more likely option, but there are questions about how much time that leaves for the deal to be ratified in time before March.”
In broadcast interviews senior figures also pressed the need for urgency, with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker calling for UK negotiators to finally “make clear their positions”, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte saying: “I am not losing patience, but time is getting shorter and shorter to come to an agreement.”
According to The Independent, Downing Street is still clear that the UK’s intention is to secure a deal as quickly as possible, with October’s summit the goal.
But December is also now being seen as the moment when a deal could most plausibly be struck, something supported by the fact that the government identified 21 January 2019 as a potential staging post on the road to Brexit.