British prime minister Theresa May met with European leaders over dinner last night at the end of the first day of an EU summit in Brussels.
In a speech last night, May said both sides needed an “outcome that we can stand behind and defend to our people”.
She also promised to increase the number of protections offered by the UK to EU citizens after Brexit.
She refused, however, to disclose a specific figure regarding how much the UK was willing to pay to Brussels, stressing that she had already promised to honour the UK’s financial obligations, which includes paying into the EU budget until 2021.
Today the EU 27 will continue their meeting in Brussels without the UK delegation. They are expected to discuss trade with the UK between themselves.
Verdict takes a look at how some European leaders reacted to May’s address.
German chancellor Angela Merkel said at a late-night news conference on Thursday that negotiations were proceeding in the right direction:
In contrast to how it is portrayed in the British press, my impression is that these talks are moving forward step by step.
She dismissed suggestions that talks with Britain should come to a halt as “absurd.”
I have absolutely no doubts that if we are all focused … that we can get a good result. From my side there are no indications at all that we won’t succeed.
However, she made clear that the second stage of talks will not take place before December.
Progress is not sufficient enough to enter the second phase, but it is encouraging to move on with the work so that we can reach the second phase in December
Like Merkel, Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, struck a positive tone:
We were friends, we are friends and we still will be friends; I am sure we will find an agreement.
This morning, Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat described May’s address at the EU leaders’ dinner as “her best performance yet” adding that he picked up on a shift in her outlook since her last speech in Florence.
It conveyed a warm candid and sincere appeal that she wants progress to made, that she has moved in her position, so I think that was appreciated.
Lithuanian president, Dalia Grybauskaite, was less optimistic about the future of negotiations with Britain.
She was critical of May’s comments on Brexit last night, saying that her address was in fact no more than “short excerpts” from the speech she gave last month in Florence.
Theresa May needs to persuade herself and her government to be more forthcoming and realistic.
Grybauskaite’s statements were echoed by Austrian prime minister Christian Kern, who said that “it is good to see there is some rhetoric but we need to come to tangible conclusions because uncertainty is not good for the continent and not good for our economies.”
He reiterated that the UK’s proposals did not go far enough:
It’s up to the British government to propose something which is a basis and good ground for further progress which is totally important.
The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said May’s speech fell short of expectations when it came to providing concrete details on the Brexit bill.
Theresa May has to come up with more clarity on what she meant with other commitments in her Florence speech. I phoned her last week and tried to encourage her to do that and so far she hasn’t.
On Friday, leaders will set a target of December for the UK government to improve its divorce settlement offer.