LONDON: Britain and the European Union are “closing in” on a withdrawal agreement, Brexit minister Dominic Raab said on Friday, ahead of a meeting by European leaders in Salzburg next week.

Britain is due to leave the bloc on March 29 but is yet to reach a full exit deal with Brussels and some rebels in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party have threatened to vote aga­inst any agreement unless she changes her proposals.

Both London and Brussels are hoping to reach a deal by mid-November. May has said next week’s informal EU summit will be a “staging post” in the negotiations that will allow the bloc’s leaders to discuss her Brexit plans for the first time.

“While there remain some substantive differences we need to resolve, it is clear our teams are closing in on workable solutions to the outstanding issues in the Withdrawal Agreement, and are having productive discussions in the right spirit on the future relationship,” Raab said after a phone call with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

“We reiterated our willin­gness to devote the necessary time and energy to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion,” he said, adding that the pair agreed to take stock again following the Salzburg summit.

Barnier issued no statement and an EU official described the call as having taken stock of the ongoing negotiations.

On Thursday the government published a set of advice notices for Britons on how to prepare for the possibility of a “no-deal” Brexit, and May held a meeting of her top team of ministers to discuss the government’s plans for leaving without an agreement.

Bank of England Gove­r­nor Mark Carney told the meeting Britain’s property market would crash and mor­tgage rates spiral up in the event of a chaotic no-deal Brexit, with house prices falling 35 per cent over three years, the Times newspaper reported.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2018