A deal is expected to be announced on Christmas Eve, a British government source and a European diplomatic source told CNN. News of a potential deal was also reported by the UK PA Media News Agency.
The announcement would come before the agreement deadline of 31 December.
A senior Downing Street No. 10 source told CNN that the British Cabinet was briefed on negotiations in a late-night call on Wednesday. After this briefing, the source told CNN: “Expect conversations about the legal text to last until the early hours.”
European Commission Chief Eric Mamer then suggested that the final details be ironed out. Around midnight local time, he tweeted: “#brexit work will continue through the night. It is recommended to grab some sleep for all Brexit monitors at this time. It will hopefully be an early start tomorrow morning …”
Earlier Wednesday, a No. 10 adviser told CNN that the talks are “moving, but not there” yet. An EU diplomat accepted and told CNN on Wednesday that an agreement could come “today or tomorrow, but was not there yet.”
Any potential agreement will subsequently be ratified by a ratification process before it enters into force on 1 January 2021, when the Brexit transition period ends and the UK is no longer subject to EU rules.
There were once concerns that the agreement would not be ratified until the transitional period expired; however, European institutions, including the European Parliament, have agreed to sit extra hours towards the end of the year to get the agreement approved in time.
Fears of possible delays in approving the agreement in time for the end of the transitional period have mostly been alleviated by the fact that it is largely possible to carry out temporary commercial transactions before they are ratified, which means that in the worst case it is the most serious injuries could still be avoided.
News of a potential deal comes amid growing coronavirus cases in the UK. Meanwhile, thousands of lorries from across Europe faced a third day stuck in the English port of Dover after the now-lifted closure of the French border over a potentially more contagious variant – an example of the type of border chaos that could have resulted from a “no deal” Brexit.
But the breakthrough marks an important milestone in the saga that began with the United Kingdom voting to leave the EU in 2016.
The Brexit debate will continue
In Britain itself, it is unlikely that any agreement will end the years of toxic political debate over the country’s relations with Europe.
Euroskeptic lawmakers are already organizing efforts to ensure that an agreement does not allow Britain to return to EU circulation. Pro-Europeans, meanwhile, will be hopeful that at some point in the future, perhaps under new leadership, Britain will be able to strengthen ties with Brussels.
Without a trade agreement, UK companies would lose duty-free and 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 and accounts for only 4% of the bloc’s exports in 2019 and 6% of imports.
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister insisted that Britain, no matter what the deal looked like, would continue to “flourish strongly as an independent nation.”
While any deal would likely be less financially damaging than no deal at all, Britain would still be poorer in the long run than if it had been in the EU, the independent agency producing economic forecasts for the government said in November.
So far, neither party wants more negotiations after years of painful disagreement.
Hanna Ziady contributed to this report.