Op­ti­mism rises for Brexit break­through

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS I WORLD - RAF CASERT

BRUS­SELS — With just days to go be­fore a key Brexit sum­mit next week, op­ti­mism is grow­ing that a deal can be reached to en­sure a smooth tran­si­tion for Bri­tain’s exit from the Eu­ro­pean Union.

Eu­ro­pean Union Com­mis­sioner Güen­ther Oet­tinger said Fri­day that he sees room for a break­through in the talks next week, when lead­ers from the 27 EU na­tions meet with Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May.

Oet­tinger con­firmed re­ports that progress was be­ing made on the dif­fi­cult is­sue of the bor­der on the is­land of Ire­land.

“It does ap­pear pos­si­ble there will be a break­through,” he said.

Dutch Prime Min­is­ter Mark Rutte said he spoke to May by phone on Fri­day, and added “we hope that next week at the Eu­ro­pean sum­mit, if at all pos­si­ble, the first re­sults emerge.

“I am cau­tiously op­ti­mistic that we can take steps next week, but a lot de­pends on the talks hap­pen­ing in the com­ing days,” Rutte said at his weekly press con­fer­ence.

Even if the ne­go­tia­tors them­selves agree on a deal, it is not the end of the mat­ter. The EU lead­ers must also back the deal, and then so must the Bri­tish and EU par­lia­ments.

May in par­tic­u­lar is likely to have a tough time sell­ing a deal to the House of Com­mons, which is di­vided on the is­sue of Brexit and on what terms to leave the EU.

The U.K. is slated to leave the EU on March 29. If there is no deal on fu­ture re­la­tions by then, wide­spread chaos on the bor­ders is ex­pected. Tar­iffs could go up on trade, cus­toms checks could de­lay goods and planes could be with­out per­mits to fly across the bor­ders, among other things.

EU lead­ers have a two-day sum­mit start­ing Wed­nes­day to as­sess the progress in the talks, and if there is no break­through there, an­other sum­mit could be planned for Novem­ber.

In Lon­don, Bri­tish Brexit ne­go­tia­tor Do­minic Raab cau­tioned not to be too op­ti­mistic, and warned against a com­pro­mise that would give away too much.

“If the EU doesn’t match the am­bi­tion and prag­ma­tism we’ve showed, we have the plans in place to avoid, mit­i­gate or man­age the risk of no deal — and make a suc­cess of Brexit,” he said, as the gov­ern­ment re­leased the last 29 of 104 tech­ni­cal pa­pers on prepa­ra­tions for a no-deal.

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