A deal is expected to be announced on Christmas Eve, a UK government source and a European diplomatic source told CNN. News of a possible deal was also reported by the UK news agency PA Media.
The announcement would be made before December 31st.
A high-ranking source at 10 Downing Street told CNN that the UK cabinet had been briefed on the negotiations in a late night phone call Wednesday. After that briefing, the source told CNN, “Expect talks on the law text to last into the wee hours of the morning.”
European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer then indicated that the final details would be ironed out. Around midnight local time, he tweeted: “The #Brexit work will continue throughout the night. At this point, all Brexit observers are advised to get some sleep. Hopefully there will be an early start tomorrow morning …”
Earlier Wednesday, a No. 10 advisor had told CNN that the talks were “moving but not there”. An EU diplomat agreed, telling CNN on Wednesday that a deal “could come today or tomorrow, but it wasn’t there”.
Any potential deal would later go through a ratification process before entering into force on January 1, 2021, when the Brexit transition period ends and the UK is no longer subject to EU rules.
There were once concerns that the deal would not be ratified before the end of the transition period; However, the European institutions, including the European Parliament, have agreed to spend extra hours towards the end of the year in order to approve the deal on time.
Fears that the deal’s approval could be delayed in time for the end of the transition period have largely been allayed by the fact that it is largely possible to provisionally implement trade agreements before they are ratified, which in the worst case scenario is the most serious damage could still be avoided.
However, the breakthrough marks a major milestone in the saga that began with the UK’s vote to leave the EU in 2016.
The Brexit debate continues
In Britain itself, a deal is unlikely to end the years of toxic political debate over the country’s relations with Europe.
Eurosceptic lawmakers are already organizing efforts to ensure that an agreement leaves no room for the UK to get back into EU orbit. In the meantime, pro-Europeans will hope that Britain, possibly under new leadership, will at some point be able to strengthen ties with Brussels.
Without a trade deal, UK companies would lose duty-free, quota-free access to the EU market for more than 400 million consumers who buy almost half of the country’s exports and supply a similar share of its imports. For the EU, the UK is much less important with less than 4% of the bloc’s exports in 2019 and 6% of imports.
Earlier this month the Prime Minister insisted that whatever the deal, Britain would “thrive mightily as an independent nation.”
While a deal is likely to be less economically damaging than no deal at all, the UK will still be poorer in the long run than if it had stayed in the EU, the independent agency that makes economic forecasts for the government said in November.
At present, after years of painful disagreement, neither side has an appetite for further negotiations.
Hanna Ziady contributed to this report.