EU ambassadors summoned, but optimism for Brexit deal short-lived

Weekend negotiations in Brussels between British and EU officials have not yet produced a final Brexit deal for leaders to approve this week, senior EU sources told Reuters on Sunday.

Some EU diplomats following the talks closely were optimistic that EU negotiators would tell a meeting of national envoys on Sunday afternoon that a deal had been achieved.

But other sources told Reuters that further talks would be needed to get the agreement both sides want. 

Britain's Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, made a rush visit to Brussels on Sunday for talks with Michel Barnier, the top European Union negotiator as Brexit talks accelerated ahead of a summit later this week.

Raab held surprise talks Sunday with the top EU negotiator as Brexit talks accelerated ahead of a summit later this week. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Prime Minister Theresa May is to travel to Brussels on Wednesday for the start of the summit, when both sides want to sign off on a draft withdrawal agreement to set out the terms for Britain's divorce from the EU.

Rabb's surprise trip to Brussels spurred speculation of a breakthrough in the negotiations, a possibility reinforced by the call for the ambassadors from the bloc's 27 nations to meet at EU headquarters, starting at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Three diplomats from different EU nations confirmed the ambassadors meeting is on, underscoring enough progress had been made to assess the situation.

One diplomat said that if there are enough indications a deal can be outlined, May's government would meet to evaluate it on Monday. All three diplomats talked on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were still progressing.

Irish border question

Raab and Barnier ​are seeking a compromise position on the difficult Irish border question ahead of the summit.

"With several big issues still to resolve, including the Northern Ireland backstop, it was jointly agreed that face-to-face talks were necessary," Raab's office said.

Even if a deal is reached on Britain's divorce from the bloc, it's clear that May will find it challenged at home.

Raab's predecessor, David Davis, wrote in the Sunday Times that May's plans for some continued ties with the EU even after Britain leaves the bloc is "completely unacceptable" and must be stopped by her ministers.

The prime minister's fellow Conservative party member urged members of May's cabinet to rebel against her proposed deal with the EU over the terms of Britain's departure.

May also faces obstacles from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland, which has played a crucial role in propping up her minority government in the U.K. parliament.

DUP leader Arlene Foster remains opposed to any Brexit plan that would require any checks on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Britain.

With files from The Associated Press

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