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Final Brexit deal is within grasp, says PM after breakthrough in Brussels

23 November 2018

The withdrawal agreement sets out plans for a 21-month transition after Brexit, in which Britain and the European Union want to turn their outline agreement on the future relationship into a full trade deal.

European Council President Donald Tusk said the EU executive, the European Commission, informed him it has agreed the political declaration on the future ties with Britain.

The draft on post-Brexit ties and an agreement on exactly how the United Kingdom will withdraw from the European Union will be discussed by EU leaders at a special summit on Sunday. On Tuesday, Merkel and her deputy chancellor, Olaf Scholz, both made it clear there's no wiggle room on the Brexit draft that's on the table.

May will make a statement in the British parliament on the state of Brexit negotiations at 1430 GMT on Thursday, the opposition Labour Party said.

Speaking on the steps of Downing Street, the Prime Minister defiantly stood by her deal. And, as a result we have given sufficient direction to our negotiators, I hope, for them to be able to resolve the remaining issues.

The new text was dismissed by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as "lots of unicorns taking the place of facts about the future relationship".

May will meet Juncker for afternoon tea on Wednesday as "part of the ongoing negotiation process", her spokesman said.

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"Difficult issues unresolved - so extended transition/backstop nearly certain".

Spain's Foreign Minister Josep Borrell had already warned on Monday after a meeting of European Union ministers that the draft deal does not spell out how Gibraltar should be handled.

"If the problem of future talks on Gibraltar is not resolved, Spain will have to vote no to the Brexit agreement".

Mrs May spoke with Mr Sanchez by phone on Wednesday evening to try to deal with the situation.

Spain said last week that it welcomed the inclusion of a protocol on Gibraltar in the draft Brexit agreement, but Borrell said at a news conference later on Monday that the document introduced "a certain confusion" on the issue.

Madrid wants to retain what it sees as its right to negotiate the future on Gibraltar with Britain on a bilateral basis, giving it an effective veto.

European Union leaders are due to meet in Brussels on Sunday to rubber-stamp the declaration and a separate divorce deal.

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"We have to say honestly that, in the services sector, we don't have a great deal of experience with global free trade agreements", she said.

"We also know how hard the debate in Britain is", Merkel said Wednesday.

Britain officially leaves the EU - the first country ever to do so - on March 29, 2019, but a withdrawal agreement needs to be sealed soon to leave enough time for the European Parliament and the United Kingdom parliament to endorse it.

Germany's economy minister Peter Altmaier told BBC2's Newsnight: "There is a lot at stake".

"If Westminster [Britain's national parliament] agrees, why should we be against it?"

"I know there are a lot of divergent interests still, but I believe these problems can be overcome".

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Final Brexit deal is within grasp, says PM after breakthrough in Brussels