Are you fed up of reading about the interminable Brexit talks? If so, some partial good news. Today could be the day when phase one finally concludes.
Theresa May is going to Brussels for a key lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, and both sides want to reach an agreement on the three issues on the table in phase one – citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the Irish border – that will qualify as “sufficient progress” and trigger a move to phase two.
You may have assumed that the deadline for a decision was the December EU summit starting on Thursday next week. That is where EU leaders are due to take the final decision about moving the Brexit talks to phase two, where the UK and the EU will discuss a transition deal and the future trade relationship. But Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, and the European commission will have to take a decision this week about whether the “sufficient progress” criteria have been met and so in practice today, or at least early this week, has become the deadline for the UK to finalise what its offer is on the three phase one issues.
The hope is to set out what has been agreed in a statement that will be published. This could come later today, if all goes well, allowing May to make a statement about it in the Commons tomorrow. All sides seem reasonably optimistic that there will be a deal, but by 9am this morning it still had not been bolted down and it is quite possible that there could be a delay.
As usual when talks like this are going to the wire, those close to the process start giving out quite contradictory messages – at once talking up the prospects of a deal, and highlighting how it could all go wrong.
The key problem is London’s failure (so far) to give Ireland the firm assurance it wants that Brexit will not lead to the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic and in Dublin this morning, where the Irish cabinet is meeting, Simon Coveney, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister, said there was still no deal on this issue. “We are not quite yet where we want to be, but it is possible to do that [agree] today,” he told RTE’s Morning Ireland.
In a Twitter thread last night Katya Adler, the BBC’s Europe editor, said the mood was positive. Here is how the thread starts.
And here is how it ends.
But this morning Manfred Weber, leader of the centre-right European People’s party (EPP) group in the European parliament, has been stressing that some problems remain.
The European parliament is not the lead player in this saga, but it is influential, and will have to approve any final Brexit deal.
On the subject of which, if May does wrap up phase one of the Brexit talks today, all that means is that the focus then moves on to phase two – which promises to be even more complicated. I’m afraid the interminable Brexit process will go on. But May will at least have achieved something concrete before Christmas.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9am: The Irish cabinet meets to discuss Brexit, the border issue and what the UK is offering.
9.30am: Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, meets his Norwegian opposite number, Ine Eriksen Søreide, in London.
10am: Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, meet the European parliament’s Brexit steering group.
12.15pm: May and Juncker meet for lunch.
Afternoon: May meets Donald Tusk, the European council president.
3.30pm: MPs begin day four of the EU withdrawal bill’s committee stage debate. They will debate amendments relating to devolution, and the votes will come at 11.30pm or later.
As usual, I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I plan to post a summary at lunchtime and another in the afternoon.
You can read all today’s Guardian politics stories here.
Here is the Politico Europe round-up of this morning’s political news from Jack Blanchard’s Playbook. Here is the ConservativeHome round-up of today’s political stories. And here is the PoliticsHome list of today’ top 10 must reads.
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