Time is running out for London and Brussels to agree on the terms of Britain's exit from the EU and their post-Brexit relationship. The EU said they "made progress" toward that goal at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker failed to make a breakthrough in talks over Britain's ties to the European Union after its planned departure from the bloc early next year.
May nevertheless said that "further progress has been made" in drawing up a blueprint on post-Brexit ties during their meeting in Brussels. She said she would meet Juncker again on Saturday.
London and Brussels are hoping to finalize a 20-page blueprint alongside a 585-page draft Brexit deal, which will outline the terms of Britain's exit, by the time EU leaders meet to consider both documents on Sunday.
May hopes the blueprint, a political declaration, will help convince skeptical lawmakers at home to support the legally binding draft Brexit deal agreed by negotiators last week.
The publication of the draft deal sparked angry opposition from pro- and anti-Brexit lawmakers. Two pro-Brexit ministers resigned and hardliners in May's Conservative Party called for her ouster.
But pressure appeared to recede in recent days after hardliners failed to trigger a no-confidence vote in May's leadership and some pro-Brexit ministers defended the draft deal as the best agreement possible.
In the British Parliament on Wednesday, May told skeptics that failure to pass the draft deal would risk "more uncertainty, more division or it could risk no Brexit at all."
The EU has also faced internal opposition to the proposed agreements.
Spain reiterated its threat on Wednesday to veto any blueprint that fails to clarify that negotiations over Spain's claims to Gibraltar, a British territory, should take place directly between London and Madrid.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she hoped Spain could be placated before EU leaders plan to sign off on the blueprint and draft deal on Sunday. But, she added, "I can't say how we will solve this issue."
Some countries are also said to have criticized the draft for failing to include language on the status of EU fishing rights in British waters post-Brexit.
Britain risks a chaotic "no-deal Brexit" on March 29, 2019 unless an agreement is agreed by all.
amp/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)