The EU is set to take a final step towards sealing a deal with the US to exit the European Union, with the EU executive saying it will make a final decision on whether to proceed with talks on a bilateral trade deal with Washington on Thursday.
The decision is expected to come in the coming days after talks on the terms of a trade deal, which will be the first since Donald Trump was sworn in as US president.
“The EU will make its decision on the matter on Thursday,” a EU official said.
“The EU has made a decision on a trade agreement with the United States, and it will be announced shortly.”
The EU, which had previously said it would wait for a trade and investment deal with China before finalising the bilateral deal, was not ready to declare a formal exit from the deal on Wednesday, the EU’s trade commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, told reporters.
“We are ready to announce a decision.
But we are not ready yet,” she said.
The EU was not able to say whether it would be able to conclude a deal for a bilateral deal as soon as the trade deal is signed and ratified.
A draft of the agreement has been seen by Reuters but it has not been published.
The US and the EU had long been locked in a lengthy battle over a trade pact but it was postponed over the threat of an anti-trust case from the US government.
Trump is also facing criticism over his administration’s handling of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Trump has called the events in Virginia “very sad”.
The EU is in a “very difficult position”, Vestager said.
“If you ask the EU if we are going to have the opportunity to go back to the negotiating table, we would have to be very, very confident about that,” she told reporters on Thursday, adding that the EU was prepared to make a decision “very soon”.
Vestager said the EU could have a “long conversation” about a trade or investment deal “if it’s not ready”.
“But it’s also clear that it would take quite a lot of time to get there,” she added.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, has been in talks with Washington for more than a year, but there is no sign of any final deal in sight.
The EU has been pushing to secure a trade accord with the Trump administration, but the talks have come under criticism by Washington’s political allies in Brussels, including the US Chamber of Commerce.
The two sides are due to meet in Brussels on Thursday for the first time since Trump’s inauguration in January.