Brexit negotiators stretch deadline (again)

Missing deadlines has become a tradition in EU-U.K. negotiations. But this time, Brussels is getting increasingly nervous about the ticking clock.

Brexit talks are set to stretch into next week after insufficient progress was made in negotiations in London this week, thereby passing the deadline of mid-November. Officials expect talks to continue Friday, pause over the weekend and then resume in Brussels next week.

The next informal deadline suggested by EU officials is the videoconference of European leaders next Thursday. If a deal is not been reached by then, Brussels will put forward the contingency legislation it has prepared to prevent a cliff-edge scenario in the event of a no-deal, one EU official said.

EU officials say stretching the deadline even further makes ratification for Brussels before the end of the year almost impossible. “EU countries need time to scrutinize the text,” according to one EU diplomat. “The role of EU member states is more than just endorsing the deal. If that’s what the European Commission has in mind, it will be disastrous. This is a delicate and fragile process, which the U.K. doesn’t seem to understand.”

The same goes for the European Parliament. Its U.K. Coordination Group will discuss the possible timeline needed to get a potential Brexit deal ratified on time in a closed-door meeting Friday afternoon. It had previously said a deal should be settled on before the end of October in order to have time for a proper discussion in the parliament’s trade and foreign affairs committees.

“We’re trying to be flexible as everyone prefers a deal over a no-deal scenario,” one MEP said. “But you can’t expect us to just rubber stamp such an important and complex agreement.”

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