Merkel, Rutte Nudge Brexit Negotiators to Move Quickly on Talks

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. and European negotiators must move as far as possible in Britain’s exit negotiations so that leaders can produce results at next week’s EU summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

“We’re going on the principle that the faster we’re done, the better,” Merkel told reporters alongside Rutte late Wednesday in The Hague as the two met to prepare for the meeting in Brussels next week. “It’s important that we can really log a result next week,” the Dutch leader said.

A week before a crucial meeting that will decide the outcome of the U.K.’s exit from the 28-member bloc, British and EU officials are locked in what Merkel called “very, very intensive” talks over a Brexit compromise. Rutte said a “few big questions” remain on the U.K’s relation to the EU customs union and the bloc’s single market.

“We’re not there yet, but I think that next week we can be slightly optimistic that we can make steps,” Rutte said.

Negotiators are tussling over Brexit’s biggest remaining hitch: how to prevent a hard border in Ireland. That involves a so-called “backstop” for the frontier between Northern Ireland, a U.K. territory, and the Republic of Ireland, which will remain in the EU.

Merkel reiterated that Germany stands by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and said there was no indication of discord between the 27 remaining EU member states.

“We’ve managed until now to remain very much unified among the 27 member states,” Merkel said.

Rutte said EU leaders would decide after next week whether to hold an additional meeting in November to finalize an exit agreement.

“But let’s try to come as far as possible next week,” the Dutch premier said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.