(CN) – British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Union leaders appear to be getting closer to a deal on Brexit, but it remains far from clear whether any agreement will be accepted by British lawmakers.
Negotiations over Britain's withdrawal from the EU are entering a crucial phase. The talks have largely stumbled over establishing the economic parameters for the break – details regarding customs, duties, standards for goods and the free movement of EU citizens.
Next Wednesday, the European Council, which is made up of the heads of state in the EU, will meet in Brussels to review the state of the negotiations. EU leaders have said they are getting close to a deal.
Analysts expect a tentative agreement may be reached in time for the upcoming meeting and then completed at a meeting in mid-November.
Carsten Nickel, a researcher with Teneo Intelligence, a London-based political risk advisory firm, said Monday a likely agreement will include seeing Britain stay within the EU's duty-free customs union and see Northern Ireland remaining within the EU's economic zone.
Such a deal is precisely what many hard-line Brexit supporters in Britain fear – one designed and crafted by the EU to suit the EU.
To appease opposition and help May's chances of getting a deal approved by the British Parliament, Nickel said the agreement would likely include a provision about the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom “that is vague enough to allow for rosy interpretation in the UK.”
“The unfolding choreography in Brussels, in fact, has mainly one purpose: to engineer sufficient support for parliamentary sign off in Westminster,” he said in Monday's briefing note.
Both the British and EU parliaments must approve any eventual deal.
In 2016, Brits voted in a referendum to leave the EU. Britain has set a March 29, 2019, deadline for its exit.
May has proposed a limited break with the EU that keeps Britain part of Europe's free trade area. This plan is meant to avoid heavy economic repercussions. But her plan calls for stopping the free movement of EU citizens, ending payments to the EU and an end to EU jurisdiction in Britain. The EU rejected her proposals.
At home, her plan outraged those who want Britain to make a bold break with the EU and begin looking for new trade agreements around the world.
Europe has appeared to hold the stronger hand in the negotiations so far, in large part due to its unity and economic clout. About 12 percent of Britain's gross domestic product is derived from exporting goods and services to the EU. By comparison, about 3 percent of the EU's GDP comes from exports to Britain.
Few EU politicians have supported Britain's cause to break with the bloc and as a whole are united in demanding concessions from Britain. By comparison, politicians and the public in Great Britain are deeply split and fractured over Brexit.
Those divisions in Britain are not any closer to being ironed out.
On Sunday in London, about a thousand dogs and their owners marched on parliament in opposition to Brexit and demanded a new referendum on whatever deal May makes with the EU. The event was called the “Wooferendum” march.
A growing chorus has called for a second referendum, an idea that has the support of the Labour Party, the main opposition party.