May and Juncker move forward on final draft of Brexit deal

May and Juncker move forward on final draft of Brexit deal

Sunday's summit is meant to conclude almost two years of complex and often acrimonious negotiations on how Britain and the European Union will function after their March 29 divorce.

The Prime Minister and Mr Juncker made progress on the future relationship framework, but more work is needed, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel warning she will not take part in a summit to sign off the UK's Brexit deal on Sunday unless a draft is ready. The UK is on its way out of the EU.

Theresa May continues the hard sell for her vision of Brexit.

EU Council President Donald Tusk said the 26-page declaration covering trade, security, the environment and other issues was agreed "in principle" and would be sent to the other 27 member states for approval.

Meanwhile, Labour's Lesley Laird, the Shadow Scottish Secretary, picked up on the document's section on fishing, which pointed to a future agreement by July 2020, and said Scottish Tories, who had raised fears over the UK's future control of its own waters, would not be able to accept the text and called on David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, to resign.

"So Spain doesn't actually have the legal power to block the agreement on the divorce", she added.

BBC Europe correspondent Damian Grammaticas said the European Union was reluctant to let its unity fracture by pressing ahead without Spain's approval, leaving diplomats to find a solution.

The back-stop within the agreed draft would avoid a return to a "hard border" with the Republic of Ireland by keeping the United Kingdom as a whole aligned with the EU customs union, but without any timetable for withdrawal. Austria now holds the rotating European Union presidency, and Kurz told the Austria Press Agency that his visit is meant to help the prime minister bolster support for her deal and get a realistic idea of how strong support for it is.

However, DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson dismissed the document as an "aspirational agreement of convenience", highlighting that while the withdrawal agreement is legally binding, the political declaration is not.

Also, the deal could still be rejected by the British parliament.

It is believed that the texts of the deal will not be final before a meeting of top EU diplomats - the summit's so-called "sherpas" - on Friday, frustrating some European leaders.

While Spain and Britain have chosen to press ahead in the hope they can smooth out their differences ahead of Sunday, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday night said he would veto the whole Brexit agreement if Spain's conditions regarding future relations with Gibraltar were not met.

Before leaving for Brussels, she will face opponents of the agreement Wednesday during the prime minister's weekly question-and-answer session in the House of Commons.

It still has to be approved by all European Union leaders at an emergency summit on Sunday, and several issues have threatened to delay its agreement.

"The Commission President (Jean-Claude Juncker) has informed me that it has been agreed at negotiators' level and agreed in principle at political level".

Spain wants any declaration on a new EU-UK relationship to make clear that any decisions about Gibraltar, a disputed British overseas territory, would only be taken in direct talks with Madrid.

However, a lawmaker from the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party that props up May's minority government said later on Thursday that she should ditch her agreement to the backstop if she was to keep DUP support.

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