November 23, 2018 / 3:35 PM / 18 days ago

EU wants closest possible partnership with Britain after Brexit - draft

FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker leave to discuss draft agreements on Brexit, at the EC headquarters in Brussels, Belgium November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Walschaerts/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders are to say at a summit on Sunday they want “as close as possible a partnership” with Britain after Brexit, their draft statement said.

Despite Spanish reservations over Gibraltar, the 27 EU leaders are meeting British Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday to rubber-stamp Britain’s legal withdrawal treaty from the bloc and a political declaration on their future ties.

“The European Council restates the Union’s determination to have as close as possible a partnership with the United Kingdom in the future,” said the draft, seen by Reuters.

The document also says the EU’s institutions including the European Parliament - which must approve the Brexit deal for it to be enacted - would take “the necessary steps to ensure that the agreement can enter into force on 30 March, 2019, so as to provide for an orderly withdrawal.”

EU will also approve a separate statement laying out its priorities on fisheries, environmental standards and Gibraltar.

The draft of this text, that would just be agreed among the 27 EU states without Britain, was seen by Reuters on Thursday and still contained no detailed wording on Gibraltar.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska

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