BRUSSELS: European ministers signed off Britain’s draft divorce deal on Monday as they launched a “painful” final week of negotiations on future cross-Channel ties, reports AFP.
Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and the Union’s Austrian rotating presidency said the negotiated text would be presented to EU leaders at a signing summit on Sunday.“The first, difficult step is done,” said Austrian minister for Europe Gernot Bluemel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, after the ministers met.
“A painful week in European politics is starting,” Blomel said. “We have the divorce papers on the table. Forty-five years of difficult marriage are coming to an end.”
Meanwhile, detailed discussions continue on a parallel political statement setting out the bloc’s ambitions for future relations with post-Brexit Britain—and on a possible extension to the transition period.
Britain will leave the Union on March 29 next year, but remain within its single market for a further 21 months as negotiators seek a deal to avoid a potential breakdown in trade between the key economic partners.
If the parties struggle to find a deal before the end of this period, Britain can request a one-off extension. Barnier has suggested that this should expire at the end of 2022, but he said member states have yet to sign off on this.