A British government source and a European diplomatic source told CNN that a deal is expected to be announced on Christmas Eve. British news agency PA Media also reported news of a possible deal.
The announcement comes before the December 31 deal deadline.
A senior source on 10 Downing Street told CNN that the British cabinet was briefed on the negotiations in a late-night call on Wednesday. After that briefing, the source told CNN: “It is expected that talks on the legal text will continue until the early hours.”
Then European Commission spokesperson Eric Mammer hinted that the final details would be settled. Around midnight local time, he tweeted: “The Brexit work will continue throughout the night. All Brexit observers are advising some sleep at this point. Hopefully it’s an early start tomorrow morning …”
Earlier on Wednesday, Counselor No. 10 told CNN that the talks were “moving but not arriving” yet. An EU diplomat agreed, and told CNN on Wednesday that the deal could come “today or tomorrow, but has not yet been reached.”
Any potential deal later will face a ratification process before it takes effect on January 1, 2021, when the Brexit transition period ends and the UK will not be subject to European Union rules.
There were once concerns that the deal would not be approved before the transition period expired; However, European institutions, including the European Parliament, agreed to sit for extra hours towards the end of the year in order to get the agreement approved in time.
Concerns about any delays in agreeing to the deal in time for the end of the transition period are largely mitigated by the fact that it is largely possible to implement trade deals temporarily before ratification, which means that in the worst-case scenario, the more serious the damage can still be avoided. .
News of a possible deal comes against a backdrop of soaring cases of coronavirus in the UK. Meanwhile, thousands of trucks from across Europe faced a third stuck day in the English port of Dover after France closed the now-lifted border due to a potentially more contagious variable – a preview of the kind of border chaos that could have led to Brexit. The European “no deal.”
But the breakthrough marks a milestone in the saga that began with the UK’s vote to leave the European Union in 2016.
The debate over Brexit will continue
In the UK itself, no agreement is likely to end the years of toxic political debate over the country’s relationship with Europe.
Skeptical lawmakers in Europe are already organizing efforts to ensure the deal leaves no room for the UK to return to the EU’s orbit. Meanwhile, pro-Europeans are hoping that at some point in the future the UK, possibly under new leadership, will be able to strengthen ties with Brussels.
Without a trade agreement, British companies would lose duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market for more than 400 million consumers, who buy nearly half of the country’s exports and make a similar share of its imports. For the European Union, the UK is much less important, accounting for only 4% of the bloc’s exports in 2019 and 6% of imports.
Earlier this month, the prime minister insisted that no matter what the deal would look like, the UK would continue to “strongly thrive as an independent nation”.
Although any deal would have been less economically damaging than no deal at all, the UK will remain poorer in the long term than if it had stayed in the European Union, the independent agency that produces economic forecasts for the government said in November.
At the moment, neither side has the desire for further negotiations after years of agonizing wrangling.
Hanna Zayadi contributed to this report.