BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission added to growing confidence in Brussels that it is ready for a Brexit agreement with London when it scheduled talks with EU lawmakers ahead of a crucial meeting on Monday with Theresa May.
However, EU officials and diplomats warned on Sunday that it was not yet clear if an agreement would be reached with the British prime minister when meeting with the EU executive.
Two hours before sitting down for lunch in Brussels in May, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will report to Guy Verhofstadt and his Brexit team in the European Parliament, an official said.
Verhofstadt and his colleagues wrote to EU negotiators last week [B5N1IL019] to sound the alarm about what they said were "stalled" talks about EU demands that the rights of EU citizens in Britain is guaranteed directly by the European Court of Justice after Britain leaves the European Union. They also expressed concern about Northern Ireland.
Parliament must ratify any treaty on Britain's withdrawal from the European Union before Brexit in March 2019 to create the smooth transition period that May wants, so it will be vital for both parties to keep the legislators on board.
Senior officials and diplomats from the EU said work would continue on Sunday. A person close to the discussions said the situation was "delicate". "It's still pretty fluid," said a second person involved. "Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."
Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister and a strong critic of Brexit, declined to comment.
The German leader of the center-right group in the EU parliament warned that lawmakers were still not satisfied.
"In the Brexit negotiations, money is one of the problems, but not the biggest one," Manfred Weber said in a statement. "We are much more concerned about the fact that until now the negotiations have stalled in the protection of the rights of EU citizens after Brexit and in the case of Ireland," he said.
The EU wants schematic agreements on three critical divorce terms before it opens negotiations on the transition and a future free trade pact that it would follow. The May lunch is the deadline for the EU to have its final offers before EU leaders consider whether they will agree on a December 15 summit to launch Phase 2.
Great Britain and the EU point to sign a joint declaration that establishes progress towards final agreements that the Commission, like the EU executive, would say were "sufficient" to open trade talks.
EU officials say that conditions were agreed for a Financial solution long resisted by Brexit hardliners. The Irish prime minister said on Saturday that he would essentially cover all the 60 billion euros that the EU had demanded.
On the second key issue of an agreement to avoid a "hard border" on land between Great Britain and the EU on the whole island of Ireland, diplomats say that the joint document will set the rules for reaching a border agreement aimed at to avoid interrupting peace in the north but leaving many of the details open.
The third issue of citizens' rights has long been the least problematic, but the concerns of the European Parliament were a reminder of the extent to which the insistence that the TJJ have The final word on whether London was respecting the withdrawal treaty conflicts with British demands to be exempt from EU courts.
It was not immediately clear what commitment, if any, has been found. EU governments have also been pressuring London to provide better conditions for EU expatriates on the incorporation of future family members and the transfer of social benefits across borders.
One suggestion in Brussels has been to clearly limit any involvement of the EJT as a last resort and, clearly, only available to those EU citizens who choose to continue living in Britain before Brexit, and not to those who arrive later . There are 3 million of them today.
In his attempt to show Brexit's skeptical allies that he has secured something in five months of negotiations that seem ready for London to accept in general terms the original terms of the EU, May has insisted that Brussels make a simultaneous commitment and reciprocal of transition and trade talk if she accepts a deal.
It seems that this will be the case with the joint declaration.
"Everyone knows that we should politically honor what the British have accepted about money," said a senior EU diplomat. "Then on Monday they will sign this document."
If all goes to plan, 27 EU leaders will give official green light on December 15, a day after May has joined them for a routine summit on other EU issues.
The deliberately vague concept of "sufficient progress" gives political leaders the option to leave a lot of space for future negotiations. The key for many in Brussels is that it should mark the establishment of confidence that both parties are willing to work for a separation that is not too disruptive.
Additional report by Gabriela Baczynska; Written by Alastair Macdonald; Edition by Janet Lawrence