LONDON—The U.K. and the European Union may not meet their self-imposed October deadline for a divorce deal, Britain’s Brexit minister said Wednesday.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said October remains the goal, but there is a “possibility it may creep beyond that.”
He told a House of Lords committee that the two sides were aiming for October, “but there is some measure of leeway.”
Britain and the EU aim to hammer out an agreement on divorce terms and future trade by a European Council summit in October so that it can be approved by individual EU countries before the U.K. leaves the bloc on March 29.
But talks have stalled amid divisions within Britain’s Conservative government over how close an economic relationship to seek with EU, and the U.K. has ramped up planning for a disruptive “no deal” Brexit.
A proposed divorce agreement hammered out by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government last month proposes to keep the U.K. close to EU regulations in return for free trade in goods. The plan has infuriated Brexit-backers in her Conservative party, who claim it would leave the U.K. tethered to the bloc and unable to strike new trade deals around the world.
It also has been received coolly by EU leaders, who claim Britain wants to “cherry pick” aspects of membership in the bloc without the full cost and responsibilities.
Raab said Britain and the bloc were 80 per cent of the way to a withdrawal deal, and urged the EU to show “pragmatism” in the negotiations.
“I’m confident that a deal is within our sights,” he said.