EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has expressed optimism about striking a deal with Britain on its departure from the European Union within the next six to eight weeks
"I think that if we are realistic, we are able to reach an agreement on the first stage of this negotiation, which is the Brexit treaty, within six or eight weeks," Barnier said at a conference in the Slovenian town of Bled on Monday.
"We must reach an agreement before the beginning of November. I think it is possible," he added.
Brussels and London are working hard to wrap up discussions on the terms of Britain's departure from the EU in 200 days' time, on March 29, 2019.
The two sides had set a mid-October deadline to finalise the Brexit deal, but Barnier has said for weeks that this date could slip. He has previously indicated that agreement would be necessary by mid-November to allow time for the required ratification procedures.
The Brexit deal is to include the so-called divorce terms, as well as ushering in a 21-month transition period. It will also include a political agreement outlining the future relationship between Britain and the EU.
Detailed negotiations will still have to take place on future relations, notably regarding trade.
Up to 85 per cent of the Brexit deal has been agreed on, Barnier told the Bled Strategic Forum.
But big issues remain, he said, referring to the Irish border question, geographical indications which specify the origin of certain agricultural goods, and the role of the European Court of Justice.
Australian Associated Press