European Union member states have started to prepare their procedure to implement a new trade deal with the United Kingdom from January 1, three diplomatic sources in the bloc told Reuters, indicating that agreement could be imminent.
Both sides are racing to avoid a turbulent split when Britain leaves the EU’s orbit on December 31, 11 months after it formally quit the bloc and entered a transition period keeping it in the EU customs union and single market.
The two sides have given a dizzying array of conflicting signals: Britain on Wednesday said that two significant issues – fishing and competition – still remained to be resolved and that there had not been sufficient progress for a deal.
But during a meeting with the EU’s executive, the European Commission, which is negotiating with Britain on behalf of all the 27 member states in the bloc, national diplomats in Brussels were told to be ready for a meeting on Thursday should a deal come.
“It seems the deal is pretty much there. It’s a matter of announcing it today or tomorrow,” said one EU diplomat.