December 4, 2017

Hopes rise for Brexit trade talks ahead of May meeting with Juncker

British prime minister Theresa May will meet with EU officials in Brussels today in an attempt to push Brexit talks forward.

Downing Street has described the meeting as an “important staging post” in the lead up to a “crucial” summit with the other 27 member states later this month.

May will aim to resolve issues surrounding the UK divorce bill and citizens’ rights so that discussions can move on to trade.

Over lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, May will also seek to reach a final agreement on Northern Ireland and the future role of European courts in Britain.

However, Downing Street said today that “plenty of discussions” lie ahead.

The EU has warned that it will only begin discussing trade once  “sufficient progress” has been made on the so-called divorce bill, expat citizens, and the Northern Ireland border.

The UK is understood to have recently increased its offer it would be willing to pay, which could be worth up to €50bn ($67bn), the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, said progress had been made in talks relating to Northern Ireland at the weekend.

Coveney, who has responsibility for Brexit as foreign minister, told RTE on Monday morning:

We’re not quite yet where we need to be but it is possible to do that today.

However, objections from Northern Irish unionist politicians in Belfast or London could halt discussions.

The timing of May’s visit was decided by Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, who urged her to make an improved offer on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU by December.

The UK voted for Brexit last year and is due to leave in March 2019.

On Sunday, a group of 30 Eurosceptic figures from a campaign group called Leave Means Leave said that the UK should make no “further financial commitment” until the EU agrees to certain conditions.