BRUSSELS (Reuters) – It is unlikely that there will be a breakthrough in negotiations on Britain’s exit from the European Union this month, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said on Monday.
“Till now we are waiting for new news from London… We have time, but not so much. For this month, it’s very difficult to make real progress, but before Christmas I’m hoping that it will be possible,” Reynders told reporters before a meeting of national ministers on Brexit in Brussels.
EU leaders had pencilled in a summit for November to sign off on a deal with London as long as there was decisive progress. But Brussels and London cannot agree how to guarantee there is no return of border controls on the frontier between EU-member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.
“Of course we are prepared for all the different possibilities, but we try to work hard on a good agreement and we are very close,” Reynders said.
The Czech Republic’s European affairs minister, Ales Chmelar, said it remained to be seen if a special Brexit summit could be held before December.
“I’m still hopeful that we can have decisive progress this month but we’ll see,” he said.
Germany’s Europe Minister Michael Roth said the time was “overripe” for a solution given any deal would need to be ratified by the European Parliament and national legislatures.
He said a customs union with Britain was one option available to avoid a hard Irish border.
“But with that we would need to guarantee that it would not result in unfair relations between the United Kingdom and the EU 27. It’s about environmental standards, labour standards and social standards,” Roth said.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Janet Lawrence)