The head of the European Union’s executive on Wednesday reported “genuine progress” in Brexit talks but said the risk of Britain leaving the EU without a new trade deal on Dec. 31 remained, an outcome she said the bloc was prepared for.
Britain and the EU are in a last-ditch effort to agree terms to keep trade flowing without tariffs or quotas from the start of 2021, after London’s current standstill transition out of the 27-nation bloc ends.
“The next days are going to be decisive,” said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. “The European Union is well prepared for a no-deal-scenario, but of course we prefer to have an agreement.”
“With very little time ahead of us, we will do all in our power to reach an agreement. We are ready to be creative. But we are not ready to put into question the integrity of our single market,” she added.
Negotiators have agreed the outline of a new partnership treaty on goods and services, as well as on transport, she said, adding that “genuine progress” had been made on issues from judicial cooperation to coordinating welfare benefits.
An EU official involved in the negotiations said a deal was possible, but not likely before the weekend at the earliest.