London. Britain and the European Union agreed a draft text setting out a close post-Brexit relationship, officials said, though wrangles over fish and the future of Gibraltar must still be settled before leaders meet on Sunday.
Thursday’s news sent the pound nearly one percent higher on relief among investors that 18 months of tense negotiation were bearing fruit, keeping Britain close to its biggest market and ensuring nothing much will change for at least two years.
British Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters in London: “The British people want this to be settled, they want a good deal that sets us on course for a brighter future … That deal is within our grasp and I am determined to deliver it.”
EU officials said there was a solid consensus that remaining niggles should not hold up a final deal for Sunday, as the other 27 governments go through the new paperwork. The main question mark is over whether Spain, seeing Brexit as an opportunity to swing the EU’s weight behind its 300-year campaign to reclaim Gibraltar from Britain, can be persuaded to remain patient.
After a draft treaty last week set the terms for Britain’s departure in March, May had met EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday, hoping to finalise an ambitious declaration on future ties that can help her secure backing at home for the whole Brexit package in the teeth of furious parliamentary opposition, even within her own party.
She is due to meet Juncker again on the eve of the summit, at 6 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Saturday, and a spokesman for Juncker said that by then there should nothing much left to sort out.