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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

UK and EU plan special summit to sign Brexit deal

EU will schedule a one-off gathering in November so leaders can formally agree to terms of the 'divorce'

Michel Barnier said reaching an agreement on the terms of the UK’s departure by November 2018 was “realistic”. Reuters

The UK and the European Union are preparing for a special summit to sign the Brexit deal in November and the meeting could be announced within days, say sources.

While negotiators still need to resolve key disagreements, the EU is preparing to schedule a one-off gathering in mid-November so leaders can formally agree to terms of the 'divorce', according to one source.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May will make her case to her EU counterparts at an informal meeting in Salzburg next Wednesday, and then the other 27 leaders will discuss how to respond.

The plan for a Brexit deal summit is likely to be unveiled during the course of the Salzburg gathering, two sources said.

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Scheduling a summit to conclude the withdrawal negotiations would be a sign of growing confidence among the governments of Europe that an agreement on the UK’s exit is close.

In recent days the pound has risen on more positive news of the prospects, after falling during the summer over fears that negotiations were at risk of breaking down. The UK will leave the EU, with or without a deal, on March 29.

The biggest obstacle to be resolved in the talks is the question of how to avoid customs checks and police at the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, once the UK has left the bloc. This is seen as critical by both sides, but talks have been deadlocked for months.

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has sounded more hopeful in resolving the issue, offering to be flexible in his approach to the so-called "backstop plan" to avoid a hard border. Officials have detected some progress although the two sides remain far from finalising a plan.

One source said the special Brexit summit was being scheduled for the week of November 12.

On Monday, Mr Barnier said he thought reaching an agreement on terms of the UK’s departure was “realistic” within the next six to eight weeks. “I think it’s possible” to get a deal by the start of November, Mr Barnier said at a conference in Bled, Slovenia. “We are not far from agreement.”

Once a deal is reached, it has to go to the UK Parliament and the European Parliament for approval. But British politicians inside Mrs May’s governing Tory party, as well as in the opposition Labour Party, are preparing to sabotage the agreement.

“We are working on a deal which will be good for UK industry and we are confident we’re going to achieve that,” a spokesman for Mrs May’s government said.

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