British prime minister Theresa May’s heading to Brussels this morning for an European Union summit where she hopes discussion will finally move to the UK’s trading relationship with the bloc.
The summit follows May’s embarrassing defeat in parliament last night, with MPs deciding to give themselves a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal struck with Brussels — 12 of May’s Tory MPs rebelled against the party.
Timeline for Brexit
Meanwhile, in Brussels May also wants an agreement on what the UK can expect from the temporary arrangement that kicks in after it leaves the EU in March 2019.
The much-anticipated two-day European Council summit will see leaders from the 28 EU member states come together to approve a formal agreement over Brexit after the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier recommended that the bloc recognises that the UK has made “sufficient progress” following breakthrough talks last week on the Irish border and rights of EU citizens.
The European Commission will then be able to begin work on the second phase of talks with the UK, which covers the transitional exit period, trade and long-term relations with the bloc.
Barnier has warned progress at the Brussels summit today and tomorrow may not mean an immediate start to the trade talks which May is seeking.
Barnier told MEPs the European Council would initially concentrate on the terms of a transition to the post-Brexit relationship, while he would focus on turning last Friday’s deal into a legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement.
A leaked draft of a text to be considered by the EU27 leaders on Friday suggests that trade talks may not start until after a subsequent summit in March, when a further set of guidelines will be produced.
Next week, the ability of MPs to delay Brexit could be strengthened further, with the government looking unlikely to be able to muster a majority to support its attempt to legally fix Brexit date to 29 March 2019.
May could lose that vote next week too. Even then, it won’t destabilize her too much. But it could prove very significant if Brexit talks go down to the wire next year.
Grenfell tower six-month memorial service
Before heading to Brussels May will join senior members of the royal family to attend Grenfell tower six-month memorial service.
Six months after fire engulfed Grenfell Tower in west London, killing 71 people, a multi-faith memorial service is being held at St Paul’s Cathedral.
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It will be attended by the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
Some 1,500 people are expected to take part, including May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The service will also pay tribute to the emergency services, the recovery team, the community, public support workers, and volunteers.