UK Brexit chief says he expects talks to go down to the wire

FILE - A Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 file photo of British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, addressing a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels. Britain's Brexit minister says he expects negotiations with the European Union won't end until the last moment before the U.K. officially leaves the bloc in March 2019. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, File)

UK's Brexit chief says he expects negotiations with EU to go down to the final moment

LONDON — Brexit negotiations with the European Union aren't expected to end until the last moment before the U.K. officially leaves the bloc in March 2019, a British minister said Wednesday.

The EU tends to make decisions "at the 59th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day and so on, and that is precisely what I would expect to happen," Brexit Secretary David Davis said.

Negotiations between Britain and the EU have stalled over divorce terms, including the size of the bill Britain must pay to settle its commitments to the bloc.

The U.K. is keen to start talking about future relations, a step the EU may agree to take in December.

Many U.K. businesses fear the consequences if Britain doesn't strike a deal by the March 2019 deadline and crashes out of the EU single market and customs union.

The EU side has said that in practice the negotiations will have to be finished even sooner, by the fall of 2018, to give the European Parliament and 27 national parliaments enough time to approve the deal by March 2019.

Davis told a committee of lawmakers that the last-minute negotiations would be "very high-stress, very exciting for everybody watching."

Opposition legislators accused him of undermining a government promise that Parliament will get to vote on any eventual deal with the EU. Davis acknowledged that if a deal is made at the last minute, such a vote might come after Britain was already out of the bloc.

"Well, it can't come before we have the deal," he said.

However, Prime Minister Theresa May told lawmakers she was confident "that we will be able to achieve that agreement and that negotiation in time for this Parliament to have the vote that we committed to."

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