Theresa May said nothing 'substantially new' in Brexit address

Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab

"We have shown we can do hard deals together constructively". I remain confident of a good outcome.

An aide to French President Emmanuel Macron said May had shown she was open and interested in clinching a deal. "There is a message of goodwill", said Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament.

"But I did not perceive anything substantially new in terms of content", he said.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said MPs must be able to scrutinise and, where appropriate, change the text of any vote presented to Parliament.

Jeremy Corbyn noted Mrs May had not mentioned "Chequers" in her recent update to the Commons and in her Conservative Party conference speech, and asked: "Does this mean the Chequers plan is now dead?"

Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed the tougher tone coming from the 27 other governments, whose leaders will gather over dinner after a presentation by Mrs May.

The leaders are expected to announce on Thursday whether or not they will hold a special summit in November to finalise a Brexit deal.

The prime minister will be in Brussels until Friday in an attempt to make progress in Brexit negotiations.

They added: "For now, EU27 is not planning to organise an extraordinary summit on Brexit in November". The EU says a time limit would defeat the point of the backstop.

European Union leaders dined on pan-fried mushrooms, fillet of turbot cooked in wheat beer and a trio of fruit sorbets, while they discussed their next steps on Brexit following a 30-minute meeting with Theresa May, who was not invited to dinner.

Nobody really wants Britain to crash out of the European Union without a withdrawal deal, but time is running out and the sides have bogged down over the contentious issue of how to manage the Irish border.

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May reassured MPs on Monday that she would not accept the EU's demand that the backstop plan for the United Kingdom to stay in the customs union after Brexit to be indefinite.

A month after May's last meeting in Austria, when her rejection of European Union proposals created to avoid a revival of border tensions in Northern Ireland provoked angry reactions, her tone was much calmer, said European Union officials who were present.

But the commission has long insisted that it will only discuss the details of a trade deal after the fraught Irish backstop question is resolved.

Mrs May replied: "We've been very clear throughout the negotiations in relation to the financial settlement that led to the figure of around £39 billion following the December joint report, that this is a country that honours its legal obligations and we will do exactly that". Brexit must be orderly for everyone and for all the issues including the island of Ireland.

But Brussels feels the plan will need such complex policing and checking that it can not be sorted in time for agreement this month.

Anthony Wells, director of political research for YouGov, told the Evening Standard: "The slow trend of public opinion moving against Brexit we've seen over the past year appears to be continuing".

"I think they haven't believed it is possible, but we are now facing it".

Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite claimed the Prime Minister didn't have a "strong mandate".

"We are approaching the end of negotiations". And now, just days before the deadline, they are still bickering amongst themselves.

"The Prime Minister must avoid an economic catastrophe".

At the beginning of an European Union summit in Brussels, Mr Barnier told reporters: "We have worked a lot for the past few weeks and days, and nights also with the British delegations to reach a global agreement for the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration".

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