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Amid Brexit deal talk, EU summons envoys, media

From Reuters - March 19, 2018

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU Brexit negotiators summoned national envoys and journalists at short notice on Monday as speculation mounted among diplomats of an interim deal to grant Britain a transitionthough some urged caution.

There could be a deal, one senior EU diplomat said. Another, however, played down talk that good progress in negotiations with Britain over the weekend had covered enough ground to assure London of a transition deal after Brexit.

A major sticking point is Britains reluctance to agree to terms on the Irish border set out in a separate part of the draft withdrawal treaty currently under discussion.

Britain has been hoping for an interim accord on the transition to ease fears among businesses before Prime Minister Theresa May meets fellow EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Thursday. The following day, the other leaders are expected to agree terms for talks on future trade relations and May hopes that they will also endorse the interim accord on transition.

Member states representatives in Brussels were summoned to an urgent meeting by the blocs Brexit negotiators on Monday, diplomats and officials said. It was convening shortly before British Brexit Secretary David Davis was due to arrive about 11 a.m. (1000 GMT) to meet EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

The European Commission scheduled a news conference on Brexit for 12:45 p.m. Officials did not immediately confirm that it would be given by Davis and Barnier. They have typically spoken together after rounds of negotiation have concluded.

Their teams negotiated into the night on Saturday and Sunday to clear outstanding issues andLondon hopessecure a status-quo adaptation period of about two years after Brexit, which is due in March 2019.

Several EU officials and diplomats said the intense weekend talks aimed, among other things, at resolving serious differences over the Irish border had made good progress.

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