December 7, 2017 / 11:54 AM / a year ago

EU sets Sunday deadline for May to cut Brexit deal

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street, London, December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission effectively set a deadline of Sunday for British Prime Minister Theresa May to return to Brussels to deliver an offer on a Brexit divorce deal.

The EU executive’s chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters that discussions were continuing following May’s abortive trip on Monday which was broken off due to objections from Northern Irish allies: “So far, no white smoke,” he said.

“We stand ready to receive Prime Minister May at any moment in time when they’re ready,” he added. “This will have to happen this week. In this building, we work for a full week, 24/7, and our week includes Sunday.”

He said reports that negotiations could continue into next week were wrong, saying that EU leaders needed time after May’s offer to prepare a summit on Brexit next Friday where they may agree to launch trade negotiations with Britain. He noted that leaders’ advisers meet on Monday to prepare the summit.

Asked whether the deadline was midnight on Sunday in Brussels or in London, which is an hour behind, Schinas said that would not be an issue and both time zones were valid.

Asked whether Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was still optimistic for a deal, as he said he was after meeting May on Monday, Schinas said: “President Juncker is a born optimist.”

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald, Editing by Gabriela Baczynska; @macdonaldrtr

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