November 14, 2018 / 11:54 AM / a month ago

EU Commission says could make Brexit statement soon

European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier arrives at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium November 12, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission and its Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier could make a statement on negotiations with Britain as early as Wednesday, the EU executive’s chief spokesman said.

Margaritis Schinas declined, however, to confirm to reporters that, as the British government and EU officials have said, a draft treaty had been agreed by civil servants.

Barnier’s deputy Sabine Weyand would brief EU national envoys in Brussels, Schinas said, as Prime Minister Theresa May consults her cabinet from 1400 GMT on the deal in London.

Barnier must declare that “decisive progress” has been made toward an agreement in order for European Council President Donald Tusk to call the 27 other national leaders to a summit that would give the EU’s political endorsement to a treaty.

EU diplomats expect that, if May secures the backing of her fractious cabinet and there is no major objection from the EU envoys, then Barnier decide as early as late Wednesday afternoon to recommend the summit is called. Many also expect such a summit to be scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 25.

EU ministers would discuss the accord at a meeting in Brussels on Monday and advisers to the 27 national leaders, known as sherpas, would meet on Wednesday to prepare the summit.

The biggest question mark over the deal — unpublished details of which Reuters has reported here — is whether, even if May’s cabinet backs it, she can then get it through a parliament in which her minority government faces fierce criticism from both supporters and opponents of Brexit.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Gabriela Baczynska

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