Britain will be offered a goodwill gesture at a European Union summit next week, European nations agreed on Friday, seeking to break the deadlock over Brexit, but no watering down of their demand for tens of billions of euros they say Britain owes.
British Prime Minister Theresa May also indicated she might make a move at next week's summit. A spokeswoman said "there will be more to say there" on a promise May made last month to honour financial commitments when Britain leaves.
Both sides are making the moves to end an apparent stalemate in talks on Britain's leaving the EU.
At heart is a proposal by summit chair Donald Tusk to tell May next week that the EU will start internal work on a post-Brexit transition plan.
"This is a very big gesture towards Britain, maybe way too big," a senior EU diplomat said ahead of an evening meeting of envoys from the 27 remaining states to discuss Tusk's draft for a statement to made after leaders meet in a week's time.
Ambassadors broadly agreed the plan on Friday despite scepticism, including from powerhouse Germany. They requested some harder language to ram home that any offer is conditional on Britain making progress toward agreeing Brussels' terms.
"Time is running out", German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman had warned after week of stalemate in negotiations and faction-fighting within May's government that have raised concerns that talks could collapse, leaving Britain bumping out into legal limbo in March 2019.
Hammering the point, EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker said in Luxembourg: "They have to pay. They have to pay."
Underscoring tensions, British finance minister Philip Hammond referred to the EU as "the enemy" at one point, but then apologised. His remark came as he defended himself against accusations from hardline Brexit supporters who say he is soft on Brussels.
Businesses planning investment decisions are calling for a clear idea by the new year of how the split and subsequent years of transition to a new trade relationship will function. Otherwise, some firms say, they may assume a disruptive "hard Brexit" and move some operations to continental Europe.