NEWS DIGEST – Brexit negotiations were running to the wire ahead of an European Union (EU) leaders’ summit on Thursday.
As a key domestic ally of British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said it could not support the deal on the table.
Late Wednesday, British and EU negotiators reached agreement on all key outstanding obstacles to a Brexit deal, barring value-added tax regimes, according to EU diplomats.
But early Thursday, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland said it cannot back the terms of the current deal on the table.
“As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues and there is a lack of clarity on VAT,’’ the party leadership said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Johnson is hoping for the support of the DUP to push a Brexit deal through parliament, and their opinion could also sway Conservatives in his own party.
European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker spoke to Johnson early Thursday.
“Every hour and minute counts’’ ahead of the summit, Juncker’s spokeswoman Mina Andreeva wrote on Twitter.
“We are not there yet,’’ German Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament in Berlin.
By Thursday morning, the British and EU negotiating teams had not yet produced an all-important legal text for European capitals to review ahead of the summit.
“We are still patient,’’ a senior EU official said. “Maybe we will have a deal or maybe not.’’
Britain is due to leave the EU on Oct 31.
If a deal is not struck on Thursday, there may not be enough time to ratify it by Oct 31, the EU official warned.
Translators are on standby to translate any text into the bloc’s 23 languages, he noted.
Any deal will need to be approved by British and EU national parliaments.
EU officials are wary, after an earlier deal negotiated by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May was rejected by parliament in Westminster three times.
EU leaders are also due to discuss Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria, after EU ministers resolved earlier this week to curb arms exports to Ankara.
The bloc, which has a close partnership with Turkey on issues including migration, has stopped short of issuing sanctions but has condemned the operation.
North Macedonia and Albania are also awaiting word from the summit on whether they can start EU accession talks, after EU ministers failed to come to agreement on the move due to French-led opposition.
EU leaders will also touch base on terse negotiations to conclude the bloc’s next long-term budget.
Britain’s planned departure will leave a budget shortfall that is making the issue even harder than usual to resolve. (NAN/dpa)