By Tatiana Jancarikova and Jason Hovet
STRBSKEPLESO, Slovakia (Reuters) – There is a better than 50 percent chance that the European Union reaches an agreement this month with Britain on its withdrawal from the bloc but any deal needs to respect the EU’s four essential freedoms, Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini said on Friday.
In an interview on the sidelines of the Globsec Tatra Summit in the Slovak mountains, Pellegrini said a deal could not ignore the indivisibility of the freedoms of movement of labour, goods, services and capital.
The priority is to have the framework of a deal agreed when EU leaders meet in mid-October, ahead of a November summit where final technical details can be worked out, he said.
“We cannot accept that the United Kingdom would want to make only the freedom of the free movement of goods valid,” he told Reuters. “We can respect either the full package or nothing.”
Brexit negotiators believe a divorce deal with Britain is “very close”, diplomatic sources told Reuters on Friday, in a sign a compromise on the most contentious issue of the future Irish border might be in the making.
The two sides are trying to push a divorce deal as well as an outline agreement on post-Brexit relations over the line in time for leaders’ summits scheduled for Oct. 17-18 and Nov. 17-18.
“We have make the maximum effort to have a general agreement (on withdrawal) on the table in October,” Pellegrini said.
He said he was still optimistic and the bloc was acting as one, adding that there was little time to spare with Britain’s scheduled exit from the EU less than six months away in March.
“We cannot drag out talks forever. The date of exit is coming near and we have to have clarity at least in November,” he said.
(Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova and Jason Hovet; Editing by Toby Chopra)