Brexit negotiators in call ahead of EU summit

Brussels (AFP) –


Britain and Europe's chief Brexit negotiators held their latest round of talks by telephone Friday but made little fresh progress just days before a major EU summit.

Brexit minister Dominic Raab and EU commissioner Michel Barnier have previously vowed to pursue divorce negotiations "continually" as the clock runs out on a deal.

But rather than hold another round of their regular Brussels face-to-face encounters, on Friday they chose to speak by phone -- apparently without making tangible progress.

"We discussed the latest progress our teams have made on the withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship," Raab said, according to his office.

"While there remain some substantive differences we need to resolve, it is clear our teams are closing in on workable solutions to the outstanding issues in the withdrawal agreement, and are having productive discussions in the right spirit on the future relationship."

Raab's statement supported reports that the two sides expect to agree the terms under which Britain will leave the union in time for an extraordinary EU summit in mid-November.

Alongside the divorce deal will come a political statement on plans for a future trade deal, but there are important differences between London and Brussels on both issues.

An official from Barnier's office confirmed Friday's call: "They took stock of the ongoing negotiations."

On Wednesday next week, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May will address her 27 EU colleagues on Brexit at a dinner ahead of Thursday's Salzburg informal EU summit.

But no final decision is expected. Instead, officials hope the talks will give new momentum to the dialogue leading up to the regular EU summit on October 18.

This had been seen as the deadline to agree the terms of the Brexit deal, due to go into effect next March, but the leaders are now expected to plan a third -- hopefully final -- get together in November.