Brexit BREAKTHROUGH? May and Juncker agree ‘efforts should ACCELERATE’ amid deadlock

THERESA May has agreed with Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Juncker that Brexit efforts should “accelerate” following crunch talks in Brussels.

Theresa May after the crunch dinnerGETTY

Theresa May after the crunch dinner

Joined by Brexit Secretary David Davis, she had dinner with the Commission president and EU chief negotiator this evening in the hope of ending a stalemate over the UK’s Brexit divorce settlement.
It came days after Mr Barnier said the negotiations were deadlocked over the size of the UK’s payments.A statement released after this evening’s dinner on behalf of both parties said the meeting had seen a “broad, constructive exchange”.

“The Prime Minister and the President of the European Commission reviewed the progress made in the Article 50 negotiations so far and agreed that these efforts should accelerate over the months to come.

“The working dinner took place in a constructive and friendly atmosphere.”

Mrs May embraces Jean-Claude JunckerGETTY

Mrs May embraces Jean-Claude Juncker

It added: ”They discussed their common interest in preserving the Iran nuclear deal and their work on strengthening the security of citizens in Europe, notably on the fight against terrorism.“They also prepared for the European Council that will take place later this week.”

Following the dinner, the group were seen embracing outside the European Commission before going their separate ways.

After the fifth round of discussions were brought to a close last week, Mr Barnier said he would not recommend that talks move on to the next stage when he attends the European Council on Thursday.

Mrs May's motorcade arrives for the dinnerGETTY

Mrs May’s motorcade arrives for the dinner

Downing Street has insisted today’s meeting had “been in the diary for weeks” but comes after last week’s negotiations ended with little movement.The PM’s official spokesman said that Brexit would not be the only item for discussion during the 90-minute dinner, suggesting that the Iran nuclear deal, counter-terrorism and internet extremism would also come up.

Mr Juncker declined to comment on his expectations for the dinner, but suggested that details of their discussions would be revealed in a “post mortem” after it has concluded.

Asked about the dinner at a press conference in Brussels, the Commission president said: “I have never understood why journalists – even the most eminent journalists – ask for the outcome of a meeting before the meeting takes place.

“Yes, I’m going to see Mrs May tonight. You are going to have the report of it, it will be a post mortem report.”

Also attending the dinner are Number 10 Brexit adviser Olly Robbins and Mr Juncker’s chief of staff Martin Selmayr.

Mr Selmayr was widely blamed for leaking details of a previous private dinner at Number 10 in April, when Mr Juncker reportedly said he left “10 times more sceptical” than when he arrived.

The leak led to an angry response from Mrs May on the steps of Downing Street in which she warned that “there are some in Brussels who do not want these talks to succeed”.Earlier today, in a phone call, the Prime Minister and French president Emmanuel Macron “discussed progress” in exit talks and agreed to go over “next steps” on the margins of a crunch summit of EU leaders later this week, Downing Street said.

Mrs May also discussed “the importance of maintaining constructive progress” in negotiations with Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar and reiterated Britain’s commitment to maintaining a soft Irish border.

The Government wants EU leaders to expand Mr Barnier’s negotiating mandate to allow some headway to be made.

The stalemate has left Mrs May under pressure from Brexiteers to prepare for a “no deal” withdrawal to show the UK is serious about walking away from talks, in the hope this could bounce the EU into action and push them forward.

But opposition parties and Remain-backing Tories have warned Parliament could stop the Government taking Britain out of the EU without an agreement in place.

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She will have offered more money or the farce described above will unravel by Friday.

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