Wednesday

1st Mar 2017

May to sketch out Brexit to EU leaders

  • UK prime minister May will attend her first EU summit in Brussels (Photo: Reuters)

UK prime minister Theresa May will tell EU leaders on Thursday (20 October) how she foresees Brexit, but without going into much detail.

May will attend her first EU summit, where on Thursday evening she is expected to give an outline of the political situation in the UK and preparation of her country's exit from the European Union.

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Fellow EU leaders are not expected to engage in a debate with her.

May herself will probably not go into details, diplomats say.

"I wouldn’t expect May to be very specific, concrete and set out a vision, where she wants to go," a senior EU diplomat said, adding that that will come when she triggers the exit procedure, article 50, towards the end of March.

Diplomats in Brussels note that May has not taken any decision on the exact relationship she would be aiming for at the end of the Brexit negotiations.

"We are at very early stages," an EU official said.

During Thursday's dinner, EU leaders might ask questions of May but are not expected to engage in a debate. EU Council chief Donald Tusk would prefer to have that discussion among the 27 leaders.

Tusk recently said in a speech there was only one alternative to "hard Brexit", which is to stay in the EU, but diplomats say May is expected to make clear that this will not happen.

"Brexit means a fundamental change, people are coming to terms with it," the diplomat said.

May will also hold bilateral meetings, but diplomats did not want to go into detail with whom she will meet on the sidelines of the summit.

She will have a working lunch with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

While May has already met Tusk and the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, it will be her first opportunity to discuss "the agenda and potential structure of the negotiations" with Juncker, the diplomat said.

Experts and diplomats tasked with preparing for negotiations with the UK in Brussels at the EU Commission and the EU Council have been screening EU rules to identify key points, where the UK and the bloc need to talk.

The Conservative leader said she would trigger Article 50 before the end of March, which is when the EU will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Rome treaty, its founding document.

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