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May heads for Brussels after Brexit talks deadlock

  • Published at 03:08 pm October 16th, 2017
May heads for Brussels after Brexit talks deadlock

British Prime Minister Theresa May is unlikely to offer new concessions to Brussels over the terms of Britain's divorce from the European Union when she meets European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker over dinner on Monday, her spokesman indicated.

After deadlock in Brexit talks appeared to dash May's hopes that a summit later this week could launch negotiations on future trade ties, the spokesman said May was hoping to move matters forward "in a constructive manner" on Monday night.

Other EU governments insist they will only open trade talks if May tells them if and how she plans to pay an exit bill they put at tens of billions of euros.

Asked if May would flesh out details of what Britain is prepared to offer in terms of a financial settlement, the spokesman said: "The PM set out her position in the Florence speech in relation to the settlement, and that's where we are."

The 90-minute meeting, due to start at 1630 GMT, will also be attended by the bloc's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart, David Davis.

"It will either be a very expensive dinner, costing about 30 billion euros or else, what is this?" one EU diplomat said.

After talks with Davis last week, Barnier said negotiations were deadlocked, notably over London's refusal to detail what it was offering to pay Brussels. This followed an attempt by May last month to revive the negotiations with a speech in Florence promising Britain would honour its EU commitments.

As a result, Barnier told European Union leaders not to launch the talks on a future relationship that May has demanded. As time ticks down to withdrawal in March 2019, concern is rising across Europe that the process may collapse.

"This is about reflecting upon Florence and the constructive way it's been received and that we want to continue to move forward in a constructive manner," May's spokesman said.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also urged progress in the talks: "Let's get these negotiations going and stop letting the grass grow under our feet."

But EU leaders say May has been too vague in her offer of a financial settlement, something many diplomats believe is due to a fear that to agree even a very rough a figure would spark a backlash from hardline Brexit supporters such as Johnson.

British officials say they cannot give a figure on the final bill until they know what kind of trade agreement will be sealed during the talks.

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