EU President Donald Tusk warned on Tuesday that some of the bloc’s leaders were not yet ready to back a Brexit transition deal at a summit in Brussels later this week.
After intensive talks at the weekend, British and European Union negotiators reached an agreement Monday on a 21-month transition phase after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.
‘Yesterday our negotiators reached a solution on parts of the withdrawal agreement. Whether all 27 member states can welcome this at the European Council remains open,’ former Polish prime minister Tusk said in his invitation letter to the leaders.
‘I still need a couple more hours to consult with some of the most concerned member states.’
He did not name the countries that remained to be convinced.
But an EU official said Spain in particular had raised doubts over what happens with the British territory of Gibraltar, which the EU has already agreed must be the subject of an agreement between London and Madrid for any Brexit deal to take effect.
EU negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday that the two sides had made a ‘decisive step’ on finalising Britain’s withdrawal treaty, which should allow the unlocking of talks on a future trade deal in April.
Britain and the EU also agreed on Monday a ‘backstop’ solution for the thorny issue of the future of the Irish border, just weeks after Prime Minister Theresa May said no British premier could ever accept such an idea.
‘Not the end of the road’
‘As regards the most contentious issue, namely Ireland, Prime Minister May has reassured me that she accepts all options agreed in December to be on the negotiating table,’ Tusk said in his letter.
The EU chief said it was ‘clear’ they had ‘achieved success’ on Britain’s divorce bill and on protecting the rights of three million EU citizens living in Britain after Brexit.
Tusk said he would also discuss the ‘negotiating strategy’ for the trade talks with leaders at the summit, where they are supposed to approve guidelines on the bloc’s future relationship.
Barnier meanwhile warned that with Ireland still to be fully resolved, the Brexit talks were ‘not at the end of the road’.
‘The end of the road is often the most difficult,’ the former French minister and European Commissioner told a news conference after meeting EU ministers to discuss Monday’s deal.
‘We are prepared to work at any stage on any better option that the UK might come up with’ on the Irish border, he added. ‘Our responsibility is to ensure the Irish question is not left pending.’
On Spain, the EU negotiator also insisted that there was a ‘clear and unequivocal expression of solidarity by the 27’ when it came to Gibraltar.