Countdown to Brexit's Moment of Truth: What's Happening When
(Bloomberg) -- When U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May flies to Brussels to meet other European leaders later this month, she’ll have a much clearer idea of how near she is to striking a Brexit deal.
There’s now a two-week window of intense diplomacy as British and European Union officials attempt to wrap up an agreement. The Oct. 17 summit isn’t the final deadline -- the EU has already signaled it’s ready to call another gathering a month later -- but both sides recognize the importance of getting close to the finishing line by then.
Here’s your guide to a frantic two weeks ahead.
Oct. 4: Varadkar in Brussels
As the EU and U.K. try to finalize their solution to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar holds talks in Brussels. He meets EU President Donald Tusk over lunch and then meets the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt.
Oct. 5: Ambassadors get to work
Envoys from the EU’s 27 governments, the people who hold a lot of the power in Brussels, will hold a behind-closed-doors meeting with the European Commission to discuss the choreography of the next two weeks. They might get a first glimpse of the EU’s draft declaration on the U.K.’s post-Brexit relationship, but that’s more likely to come next week.
Separately, Barnier will meet leaders of Northern Ireland’s political parties (though not the Democratic Unionist Party that props up May’s government and which is taking the hardest line over the border. The DUP meets Barnier the following week.)
Oct. 6-7: No rest
U.K. and EU negotiators are likely to spend the weekend striving to get as much agreement as possible on the withdrawal deal.
Week of Oct. 8: Raab’s back
U.K. Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab will be in Brussels to hold further talks with Barnier. The government’s proposal for the Irish border is expected to be published around this time.
Oct 9: The Hardliners
This time the DUP goes to Brussels. Leader Arlene Foster is expected to hold talks with Barnier.
Oct 10: Stuff gets real
Barnier will present the draft political declaration on the future relationship to EU commissioners and then to the 27 ambassadors. They’ll start discussing it and revising it as preparation for the summit hots up. Technically this is the last moment the EU is prepared to take into account new information before the summit, so it effectively acts as a deadline for U.K. proposals.
Oct 15: Fresh eyes
Sherpas -- the right-hand men and women of the national leaders -- arrive in Brussels from their capitals to add more thoughts to the summit preparations.
Oct 16: Putting it to bed
EU affairs ministers from the 27 governments will use a meeting in Luxembourg to sign off on the draft of the summit conclusions, taking into account the views of the sherpas the day before. (The summit conclusions are cooked up well in advance of the actual meeting.) The ministers will receive the latest on the state of the negotiations from Barnier, who will then probably address the media.
Oct 17: Summit night
EU leaders -- including May -- meet over dinner in Brussels to discuss Brexit. Most of the discussion will just be among the 27 but May is expected to address them at the start. Speculation is rife over whether the meeting will be short or continue long into the night. A deal could be struck there and then, the EU could decide the two sides are close enough to call another summit in mid-November, or everything could blow up in their faces -- leaving leaders to consider what should happen before the next scheduled summit on Dec. 13.
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