UK Prime Minister Theresa May will return to Brussels for Brexit talks this weekend as the UK and EU strive to do a deal in time for Sunday’s summit of European leaders.
After a two-hour meeting with EU officials, the prime minister said progress was being made on the future shape of EU-UK relations.
Spain has said it will not agree to the Brexit deal unless changes are made to the wording over Gibraltar.
But according to BBC, No 10 sources said they expected a solution before Sunday’s gathering.
Sources said the announcement that the PM would make an unscheduled trip to Brussels on Saturday did not signal “major problems” over a document setting out the UK’s future relations with the EU.
Mrs May spoke to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Wednesday evening and said discussions would continue following “good engagement” between the countries and the government of Gibraltar, according to a Downing Street spokesperson.
London and Brussels have already agreed the draft terms of the UK’s exit from the EU on 29 March 2019 – a 585-page document covering citizens’ rights, financial issues and the Irish border.
Some Tory MPs want what BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg described as “nips and tucks” to this legally-binding agreement, but the UK and EU have signalled there will be no major changes.
The EU is now in a race against time to complete the text of an accompanying declaration on its future relations with the UK, covering trade, security and other issues, amid concerns from several member states.
Diplomats from the other 27 EU nations are expecting to see the latest draft of this document, known as the political declaration, by 10:00 GMT although that could change, according to the BBC’s Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has indicated she will not attend Sunday’s meeting of European leaders – which has been called to approve both the declaration and the withdrawal deal – unless the text on future co-operation is agreed in advance.
The EU had hoped to agree on the text of the political declaration, which is not legally binding but will be the starting point for future negotiations, on Tuesday.
The BBC understands the “real deadline” in Brussels to settle it and thus ensure Sunday’s summit goes ahead is now considered to be Friday morning – when ministerial negotiators meet.
After an hour of talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Mrs May sought to strike an upbeat note but signalled talks were set to continue until the eve of Sunday’s summit.
“We’ve made further progress and as a result we have given sufficient direction to our negotiators, I hope, for them to resolve the remaining issues and that work will start immediately,” she said.
“I now plan to return for further meetings on Saturday to discuss how we can bring to a conclusion this process and bring it to a conclusion in the interests of all our people.”