Theresa May heads to Brussels for talks ahead of critical European Council summit

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Buckingham Palace after visiting Queen Elizabeth after Parliament was dissolved prior to the general election, in London May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

The prime minister will travel to Brussels on Monday alongside Brexit Secretary Davis on Monday to hold crunch talks with Michel Barnier and President Juncker.

European leaders are likely to conclude that not enough sufficient progress has been made, declining the opportunity to move on to trade talks at the European Council’s summit later this week, but that hasn’t stopped the prime minister from personally pushing EU leaders.

The prime minister urged Chancellor Merkel to apply pressure on other EU leaders in a phone call today and has made separate such pleas to President Tusk and Dutch Prime Minister Rutte in private meetings.

Despite the fact that trade talks won’t commence, the EU’s draft summit conclusions does hint at a softening of their position. The draft suggests the EU take a more conciliatory tone in negotiations, and prepare for trade talks, hinting that they’ll begin before the end of the year.

Another positive for Downing Street is that Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator has been keen to move on to talking trade and has privately asked the EU to add some flexibility to his mandate, allowing him to make more concessions to Britain.

But whatever goodwill there’s been between the two sides of late was muddied when Mr Juncker demanded that Britain must “pay up” in a speech last week.

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