The EU and the UK were not supposed to achieve an agreement at this week's meeting in Salzburg, but an exchange of information did place, and according to Deputy Minister for EU Affairs Matti Maasikas, the hope is to reach an agreement in principle on the UK's withdrawal from the EU within a month's time.
"No negotiations were supposed to take place in Salzburg," said Maasikas, who is also the Estonian government's Brexit coordinator. "British Prime Minister Theresa May was asked to provide her view and assessment of the latest developments, and once she had done that, the leaders of the 27 countries discussed the topic among themselves. No negotiations were supposed to take place."
The government leaders of EU member states held an informal meeting in Austria, the country currently holding the presidency of the Council of the EU, on Wednesday and Thursday this week, where topics discussed also included the current state of Brexit talks.
According to international media, the EU in Salzburg stiffly rejected some of the main stances of the British government's white paper agreed upon at Chequers, thus putting May in a very difficult position, considering the fact that the British government party will hold its party conference at the beginning of October, where the government could update its mandate for talks, while the European Council handling the Brexit issue will take place on 18 October, leaving two weeks for talks.
The European Council in October will be a moment of truth for reaching a deal, European Council President Donalkd Tusk said following the meeting in Salzburg.
"At the next EU summit in October, EU leaders can decide whether it is possible to give a final and official form to the agreement in November," he added.
Potentially holding an extraordinary European Council in November was proposed in Salzburg, but it was also emphasised that the agreements in principle must be achieved in October.
Commenting on the critical media coverage published on Friday, Maasikas said that it was mainly about the British prime minister. "There was no quarrel in Salzburg," he said. "The entire speculation was about Theresa May's negotiation tactics. As this was mostly British media, there is a rather hefty dose of the country's home policy here."
According to Maasikas, the primary areas for concern remain the issue concerning the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, where the wish is to not restore border checks, and the post-Brexit trade regime between the EU and the UK.
The member states also anticipate that the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier will submit a proposal on the declaration of future relations between the EU and the UK at the beginning of October, Maasikas said. A thorough contract regarding future relations will be discussed only after the establishment of a withdrawal agreement.
Editor: Aili Vahtla