Brexit offer? Talks postponed for a week as May set to make ‘very important’ intervention

BRITAIN and the European Union have agreed to push the next round of Brexit talks back a week as Theresa May prepares to make a new intervention being billed as a potential game-changer.

Theresa May is set to make a big Brexit speechGETTY

Theresa May is set to make a big Brexit speech

It is understood the UK prime minister will deliver a crucial new speech on or around September 21 in an attempt to break the deadlock that his gripped the early stages of the negotiations.The contents of the address are being kept a fiercely guarded secret, but it appears the EU may have been tipped off to expect a big development given recent comments by its most senior officials.

Meanwhile the European parliament’s Brexit rapporteur, former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt, billed Mrs May’s speech as an “important intervention” and suggested the bloc may need time to react to its content.

As such the address is her mostly keenly anticipated since she laid out the Government’s Brexit vision – which confirmed Britain will leave the Single Market and Customs Union – in her Lancaster House speech last year.
Confirming the change of dates, a Government spokesman said: “The UK and the European Commission have today jointly agreed to start the fourth round of negotiations on September 25.”Both sides settled on the date after discussions between senior officials in recognition that more time for consultation would give negotiators the flexibility to make progress in the September round.”

The speech’s contents are being kept very closely under wraps, but Mr Barnier referred to the “very important” address whilst answering a question about the current impasse over the Brexit bill.

And the timing of the speech strongly suggests it will contain a concerted attempt to break the deadlock, with the window within which to agree a transitional deal getting narrower and narrower.Talks on a future partnership between Britain and the EU cannot begin until the 27 EU leaders, at the recommendation of Mr Barnier, have agreed that “sufficient progress” has been made on the divorce issues.

These include citizens’ rights and Ireland, where some agreements have been reached between the two sides, and the tricky financial settlement where they are worlds apart.

One Tory MEP told the PM could be preparing to make the bloc an offer on money, on the condition that they agree to accelerate towards opening talks on a transitional deal.

They added that the EU Council would need to be given at least two weeks to run the rule over any agreement reached between David Davis and the Frenchman’s team. The next meeting of the Council at 27 is on October 20.The speech is also timed for just days before the German federal election and could be designed to give Angela Merkel a last minute victory that she can sell to voters, although Brexit has been a peripheral issue in the contest.

Henry Newman, the director of the Open Europe think-tank, tweeted: “Fact UK asking to push back talks round till after Theresa May’s speech suggests she’s planning some sort of offer?”

Mr Barnier has cut an increasingly frustrated figure during recent rounds of Brexit talks, and EU officials will be desperately hoping the PM can offer some departure from current British positions they find unacceptable.

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