EU leaders play down Brexit talks progress

19 Oct

Angela Merkel arrived at a summit of the 28 countries in Brussels, praising the “encouraging” progress.

Mrs May trailed her journey there with news she would make it easier for the three million EU citizens living in Britain to remain here after March 2019.

But EU leaders are expected to vote down a motion confirming “sufficient progress” has been made since Article 50 was triggered.

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That would mean Brexit Secretary David Davis is powerless to begin negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, including on trade.

Theresa May reiterates the UK's desires for a strong relationship with the EU

May: ‘concrete progress’ made in negotiations

Mr Davis gave an interview to European media on the eve of the summit trying to exert his own leverage, calling for the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to be given “more leeway in his mandate”.

But French President Emmanuel Macron downplayed the idea, telling reporters as he arrived in Brussels that the EU27 was “united” behind Mr Barnier.

The Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, also went on the defensive.

He told Sky News it was “pretty clear” EU leaders would vote down the “sufficient progress” motion.

He did say a statement would be passed in the “spirit” of progress and added: “The wording will be encouraging.”

Maltese PM Joseph Muscat  comments on current state of Brexit negotiations

Malta’s PM on Brexit negotiations

Mrs May remained defiant at the summit, hailing the “concrete progress made so far” and stressing “urgency” of agreeing deals on things like citizens’ rights.

She added the UK would play a full role in dealing with the shared challenges of counter-terrorism, migration and defence.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also been in Brussels, flanked by a delegation of shadow ministers, and held several meetings with top level EU officials.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News it was only “responsible” for the Opposition to be meeting with Mr Barnier “to make sure that we fully understand the seriousness of the situation”.

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