EU SUMMIT 2017 LIVE: May REFUSES to budge on Brexit – 'progress' has been made at last

Posted on Oct 20 2017 - 4:24am by admin

The Prime Minister arrived at the EU headquarters this afternoon with a tough challenge of convincing leaders talks are ready to move on to the trade and future relationship phase.

The summit had been tipped as the day members agreed to move negotiations on, but talks remain deadlocked over the divorce bill and the EU’s Brexit chief Michel Barnier said Brexit was unlikely to move forward this month.

It is Mrs May’s second visit to the European Union’s headquarters this week after she travelled to Brussels on Monday to meet Jean-Claude Juncker in a bid to kick start negotiations. 

She is under pressure to walk out of talks with Brussels bosses if they refuse to talk trade. 

Four Leave-supporting former Cabinet ministers have written an open letter to the Prime Minister urging her to be prepared to conduct trade deals via the World Trade Organisation rather than the EU. 

Meanwhile, the UK is said to be fighting off a Brussels demand of £6.25billion from pension liabilities for retired EU officials.

In a major snub to the Prime Minister, it has also emerged Jeremy Corbyn has swooped to meet EU leaders in Brussels today while Theresa May hosted a meeting with former US President Bill Clinton to try and bring order to parliament in Northern Ireland.


EU summit live - Theresa May GETTY/REUTERS

Theresa May is to meet her 27 EU counterparts today

6:01pm BST: It looks like Sweden is getting ready for phase two Brexit talks on a future relationship.

Angela Merkel has talked about “encouraging” progress and trade talks perhaps beginning in December.

5.30pm BST: European Council President Donald Tusk has ruled out a Brexit “breakthrough” at the summit.

And he claimed it would take some “really hard” work to move on to trade talks in December.

He said: I don’t expect any kind of breakthrough.

“We have to work really hard between October and December to finalise this so-called first phase.”

4:50pm BST: Emmanuel Macron has tweeted a video of him walking alongside Theresa May and Angela Merkel.

Mr Macron wrote he wanted to “revive Europe” on the three fronts of “unity, sovereignty and democracy.”

As they made their way through the summit, the trio of leaders were seen holding their hands over their mouths, giving their chat a conspiratorial air.

3:47pm BST: Antonio Tajani has ruled out moving on to a second phase of Brexit negotiations without agreement on the key priorities of the Irish border, the divorce bill and citizens rights.

Mr Tajani said: “We’re all united, we don’t have differing positions within the EU we all view this in exactly he same way.

“There’s maybe a lack of vision within the UK about what they want to do but not in the EU.”

He told reporters: “Progress so far has not been satisfactory. We heard the tone of the speech by Mrs May, but I am still waiting to see the tone of that speech – the more flexible approach – transformed into practical deeds.”

Antonia TajaniEBS

Antonia Tajani addresses a press conference

3:40pm BST: At a press conference, European Parliament President Antonia Tajani said he was waiting to see Theresa May’s talk in her Florence speech of a flexible approach transformed into action.

Asked about the position of citizens’ rights, he said: “It’s not yet clear exactly what the UK wants to do.”

He added: “We believe that the European citizens who are living in the UK they should be able to maintain the rights they acquired when the UK was a full member of the EU.

“The top priority remains the protection of those people including the protection of British nationals living in Europe.”

Asked why he is meeting Jeremy Corbyn, he told reporters it was his duty “to listen to the opinions of everybody”.

“That’s how democracy works,” he said.

3:30pm BST: Austria’s leader-in-waiting Sebastian Kurz has already left the summit for Vienna.

He tweeted: “After an intensive day in Brussels, I’m on my way back to Vienna.”

Earlier he told reporters he doesn’t yet have a mandate to form a government.

Mr Kurz vowed to “put Austria back at the top of the European Union.”

Macron, May and Merkel EBS

May shares a joke with Macron and Merkel

2:45pm BST: Theresa May has been spotted sharing a joke with Macron and Merkel after the German Chancellor and French president had a bilateral meeting. 

The prime minister is hoping to push through the Brexit deadlock. Ealier Mrs Merkel said there was “encouraging” signs the UK and EU could move on to discussions about their future relationship by December. 

While Macron has said the EU-27 remain united over their Brexit stance. 

Merkel will attend a bilateral meeting with Macron REUTERS

Merkel will attend a bilateral meeting with Macron

2:30pm BST: Ireland’s PM Leo Vardakar is speaking to reporters about his country’s viewpoint on Brexit. 

He said “sufficient progress has not been made” in Brexit talks and called for “focused minds” to move towards a transition period by December. 

But Mr Vardaka admitted: “After Brexit, many northern irish will want to become irish citizens.”

He said: “Brexit doesn’t happen until 2019, we are quite far back from cliff edge.. We won’t sneak towards that cliff.”

Mr Vardakar called for much more detail over Ireland’s border issue with the UK. 

He said there had been “very positive sentiments” from Britain adding that there was “all the right language about the future relationship between the UK and EU.” 

But he said he found it difficult to square the circle, adding: ” We need more detail, it is incumbent on the UK that they put forward details on how the relationship will stay much the same. 

“They say they want the closest possible relatipnship with the EU and Ireland, but we already have the closest possible relationship – and that’s called the EU. 

“We need more of an idea how they plan to have the closest possible relationship with the EU and Ireland, when they have chosen to depart from that.” 

Ireland PM EBS

The Irish PM said Britain needs to be clearer on its Brexit outcome

Dutch PM Mark Rutte EBS

Mark Rutte said Theresa May has not done enough

2:23pm BST: When asked if Theresa May done enough?, Dutch PM Mark Rutte said “no”. 

He added: “No I think Theresa May has to come up  with more clarity about what she meant on other commitments in her Florence speech. I phoned her last week to try and encourage her to do this but so far she hasn’t. 

“It’s particularly an issue about money. Citizens rights and border controls are still difficult issues put particularly the question of the exit bill will be the main issue.” 

2:14pm BST: Emmanuel Macron has been spotted cosying up with Jean-Claude Juncker. The EU darling appeared to nuzzle into Juncker’s neck as the pair embraced during the first day of the EU summit. 

2:01pm BST: Finland’s PM Juha Sipilä has been speaking about Brexit, and admitted he is “a little bit frustrated” about the lack of progress. 

Although he said it was important to hear Mrs May’s voice, he said: “For us it is very important these three issues will be resolved. 

“I hope we can decide the next phase at December’s meeting, but today we are not in that position. 

“Of course i hope we can have a solution today, so we can go to the next phase but we need to solve the three issues at the same time.” 

Mr Sipilä denied he was preparing for a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario. 

1:58pm BST: Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has spoken after his humilating defeat against Sebastian Kurz in the Austrian elections on Sunday. 

He said it was a “big disappointment” Brexit talks had not progressed, adding: “We have to speed up this up as it is detrimental to the European economy”. 

Mr Kern added: “There are so many open issues we have to come to a resolution.” 

Juncker and Macron embrace at the start of the EU summit GETTY

Juncker and Macron embrace at the start of the EU summit

Tajani at EU summit EBS

Tajani has taken a swipe at Britain over Brexit

1:49pm BST: Antonio Tajani was quick to take a swipe at Britain when he was quizzed over Brexit. 

The President of the European Parliament simply replied: “You know our position. Brexit is not on the agenda.” 

He said they need “to achieve an agreement on the three most important things: citizen rights, money and the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland” before Brexit talks can progress. 

1:45pm BST: EU boss Jean-Claude Juncker has arrived, but didn’t stop to talk to awaiting journalists. 

1:43pm BST: French president Emmanuel Macron has vowed the EU will remain united in talks with Britain over Brexit.  

Speaking as he arrived for the EU summit, he said: “This discussion will relaunch Europe and its sovereignty, democracy and unity.

“Unity facing Spain and strong unity with the Brexit talks.

“We want to reaffirm France’s role in supporting the European Union.”

He added: “I am happy to be participating in this summit. 

“I want to take a moment of solidarity with Portugal after the terrible fires, I hope that Europe can support Portugal at this time.

“Tonight and tomorrow will give us the opportunity to continue this Europe that protects and plans for the future.

“A Europe that plans for immigration, a Europe that has ambition.

“I am meeting the other European leaders and Donald Tusk to discuss the agenda for the coming months.” 

Juncker EBS

Juncker arrives for the EU summit

Merkel has arrived in Brussels EBS

Merkel spoke to the cameras as she arrived for the EU summit

1:40pm BST: Angela Merkel said she is confident Brexit will enter the second phase of negotiations in December. 

She told reporters outside the EU summit: “Tomorrow we are going to discuss the exit of Great Britain from the EU, Michel Barnier will tell us about the progress that has been made.

“At this point the progress made is not sufficient enough to move on to the second phase of negotiations but they are giving me confidence to continue the work to start the second phase in december. I want to continue the negotiations in good faith.” 

On the ongoing Catalonia crisis, she added:”We are paying close attention and we start with the Spanish government and we hope that they can come to a solution that is agreeable with the Spanish constitution.” 

1:32pm BST: Both Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron have arrived for the first day of talks at the EU summit. 

The German Chancellor said she will continue to discuss the nuclear agreement deal with Iran. 

Mrs Merkel also spoke about Turkey, as she praised the country for doing a “great job” during the escalating refugee crisis. 

She said: “Turkey does great job regarding refugees, and EU has agreed financial commitments as part of EU-Turkey deal.” 


Emmanuel Macron EBS

Macron spoke to reporters as he arrived for the EU summit

1:23pm BST: Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg is speaking about Brexit.

He said: “A few months ago we had Hard Brexit, Soft Brexit, no deal, bad deal – it’s changing all the time.  I don’t want to claim a victory from one or the other side. We’re still friends and neighbours. But we set the conditions – we haven’t changed rules.”

He conceded that EU members “should listen to Theresa May”. 

Mr Bettel added: “The only thing to say is that the tone from London has changed over the last six months. Before they said better no brexit than a bad brexit then it was talked about a hard Brexit than any Brexit.

“But since the speech in Florence and yesterday on Facebook she told people not to worry, so I hope we are moving in the right direction now.”

1:19pm BST: Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, revealed the EU is moving towards launching an EU Army by December. 

She said the EU  has been working with defence and foreign ministers in order to move in the direction of a European Union of defence.

Ms Mogherini told reporters:”We are ready in November to have a notification of a permanent structure cooperation that would be launched by December.” 

The Italian was also quick to side step any questions over Catalonia, saying it was “not foreign policy”. 

Federica MogheriniEBS

Federica Mogherini hinted Brussels is one step closer to building an EU Army

Merkel has arrived in Brussels AFP

Merkel has arrived for the first day of the EU summit

12:53pm BST: Theresa May has arrived in Brussels, where she reiterated “concrete” progress has been made in Brexit talks. 

She said: “This council is about taking stock, looking ahead to how we can tackle the challenges we face in Europe. 

“Of course we will also be looking at the concrete progress in our exit progress and looking ahead and setting out ambitious plans in the weeks ahead. 

The PM said she wanted to “urgently” reach an agreement over EU citizens and show how the UK will play a “full role” in Europe.

When asked if she would budge over the UK’s Brexit stance, Mrs May said she had set out her “bold and ambitious agenda for our future partnership between the EU and UK” during her Florence speech. 

She said: “At the heart of it remains cooperation on the key issues and shared challenges we face.”

12:23pm BST: Austria’s Sebastian Kurz has told reporters he hasn’t recieved a mandate to form a government yet. 

He said: “But tomorrow I have a meeting with our president. If he gives me the mandate, I will speak to all parties in the parliament.”

He said he “we want to put Austria back at the top of the European Union.”

12:16pm BST: Angela Merkel has arrived at a meeting of the European Peoples Party (EPP) in Brussels, on the first day of the summit. 

Hungarian PM Viktor Orban has arrived for the EU summit EPP

Hungarian PM Viktor Orban has arrived for the EU summit

Tajani EPP

Tajani has arrived in Brussels for the EU summit

11:59am BST: Italian prime minister Paolo Gentolini is set to meet Mr Corbyn for talks over Brexit and migration. 

Ahead of the meeting, he said: “Naturally we’ll discuss first of all in the frame of the family of European Socialists and Democrats (S&D) the position of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom in the delicate phase of the negotiations on Brexit.”

11:50am BST: Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban has arrived for the summit with his 27 EU counterparts. Members are expected to discuss migration as the influence of the anti-immigration Visegrad group, a four-nation alliance of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, increases. 

The Visegrad leaders have previously refused migrant quotas approved by a western-dominated majority of European Union member states, as Mr Orban built a border fence to keep migrants out of EU territory.

11:47am BST: President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, is speaking to reporters before he heads into the EU summit

Barnier has arrived in BrusselsEPP

Barnier has arrived in Brussels

Donald Tusk tweet TWITTER

Donald Tusk has tweeted after his meeting with Kurz

11:43am BST: The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has arrived at the EU Summit. 

11:41am BST: Britain’s Brexit Scretary David Davis has been giving interviews to various European newspapers before the EU Summit. 

Mr Davis rejected claims progress is slow in the divorce talks claiming the negotiations had been “lightning fast” “by European Union (EU) standards”.

11:38am BST: Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has been speaking at a pre-EU summit meeting of the Party of European Socialists (PES) in which he said the British Labour Party “does not see anyone in Europe as our enemies”.

Before Mr Corbyn spoke, PES leader Gianni Pitella introduced Mr Corbyn as the UK’s new leader.

He said: “You are our friends, colleagues and comrades.”

In a bid to prop up his opposition party, Mr Corbyn attempted to appeal to the group as Europeans together.

He said: “We have so many things that unite us across borders.

“Working together we can challenge inequality and injustice. Achieve that better world we strive for.”

Juncker shakes hands with Latvia's Prime minister Maris Kucinskis in BrusselsGETTY

Juncker shakes hands with Latvia’s Prime minister Maris Kucinskis in Brussels

11:34am BST: The prime minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, told reporters Mrs May’s EU citizens’ open letter “goes in the right direction”. 

He said: “We need to discuss this and she should ell us where we are. I fully believe that ‘hard Brexit’ and ‘better no deal than bad deal’ are past history. UK citizens and UK politicians are more realist than they were six months ago.” 

11:27am BST: Andrea Leadsom has been speaking in the Commons where she has confirmed the EU withdrawal bill is still delayed. As she announced the business for next week in the Commons, the bill was not mentioned. 

11:21am BST: Donald Tusk has tweeted after his meeting with Sebastian Kurz, saying: “Good meeting with @sebastiankurz today in Brussels, a truly pro-European winner of the Austrian elections.”

The tweet coud be seen as a desperate attempt by Tusk to cosy up to the eurosceptic leader amid fears he will join a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party. 

Theresa MayReuters

Theresa May was spotted leaving Downing Street for Brussels at 11am

11.00am BST: Prime Minister Theresa May has left Downing Street for Brussels and will arrive for the EU Summit just in time for its 1pm start.

10:39am BST: Theresa May has tweeted her open letter to EU citizens that she released last night this morning.  

The prime minister was in Downing Street this mornign for a meeting with Bill Clinton to discuss the Northern Ireland deadlock before she fllies out to Brussels. 

10:31 BST: Juncker has shook hands with Latvia’s Prime minister Maris Kucinskis as he arrived in Brussels for the first day of the EU summit 

Kurz meets Donald Tusk GETTY

Kurz meets Donald Tusk after his election victory

Jean-Claude Juncker plants a kiss on Sebastian Kurz GETTY

Jean-Claude Juncker plants a kiss on Sebastian Kurz

10:22am BST: Sebastian Kurz has been pictured in meetings with Donald Tusk. The President of the European Council is probably hoping he can cosy up to the anti-EU leader who could now go on to resist efforts by Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron to reform the bloc and expand cooperation on issues such as immigration.

10:18am BST: Corbyn has arrived in Brussels for a meeting of the Party of European Socialists. 

The Labour leader looked in high spirits as he walked in with Gianni Pittella MEP and Labour MP Barry Gardiner. 

9:49am BST: EU boss Juncker has welcomed Pedro Sanchez, leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) in Brussels. 

Mr Sanchez will also meet Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini. 

9:40am BST: Jean Claude-Juncker has met new Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz. 

The EU boss planted a kiss on the eurosceptic leader’s face as he arrived in Brussels. Juncker will be waiting anxiously to hear who Mr Kurz decides to form a coalition with.

The 31-year-old is expected to form a coalition with the right-wing populist Freedom Party (FPO), founded by a former SS officer, which would be an EU nightmare. 

Jean-Claude Juncker (R), European Commission President, shakes hands with Sebastian KurzGETTY

Jean-Claude Juncker (R), European Commission President, shakes hands with Sebastian Kurz

9:33am BST: Spain could be set to strip Catalonia of its autonomy after the region’s president announced he is preparing to declare independence this morning.  

Spain’s PM Mariano Rajoy was not on the official line up to attend the pre-summit during lunchtime at the Belgian Royal Academy, which will be attended by Jean-Claude Juncker, Michel Barnier and Angela Merkel. 

9:27am BST: Emmanuel Macron’s vision for the EU is set to dominate the EU Summit. 

Donald Tusk put forward put forward the 2018-19 agenda, which is heavily dominated by the French president’s ideas to boost military cooperation, tighten the EU’s monterary union and introdcue a rigid screening of foreign investments. 

9:14am BST: Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to use his time in the Belgian capital to accuse Mrs May of “bungling” the withdrawal process and declare that Labour “stands ready to take up responsibility for the Brexit negotiations”.

He has also warned of the danger that Britain may crash out of the EU without a deal.

He blasted: “As the Government’s splits and Brexit bungling become ever more damaging, Labour stands ready to take up responsibility for the Brexit negotiations.

“A no-deal Brexit would be a bad deal for Britain, threatening jobs and living standards. It would also harm our European neighbours. That’s why it’s in all our interests to increase the pressure for real progress in the current talks and move on to negotiations about our future trading relationship.”

9:01am BST: Theresa May will be in Brussels today under a lot of pressure after she was sent an ultimatum by senior figures in politics, business, the law, medical research and the military demanding that she ends the Brexit negotiations with Brussels on Friday unless the EU agrees to discuss trade.

A letter signed by 25 prominent Brexiteers, including senior Tory MPs, has urged the Prime Minister to embrace “no deal” as a positive step for Britain and start preparing for life outside the EU on World Trade Organisation rules.

The senior figures from politics, business, economics, law, science and the military call for “decisive action” to dispel the “highly damaging” levels of uncertainty facing businesses across the country.

8:51am BST: The EU’s flagship home “The Egg” will not be serve as the venue for the major meeting today. 

It comes after toxic gases were found emanating from its kitchens. Instead, the summit will now take place at the nearby Justus Lipsius building in Brussels. 

Theresa May met with Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday GETTY

Theresa May met with Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday

8.44am BST

Theresa May is eager for progress in Brexit talks, and it seems she is not alone, with European Council President Donald Tusk suggesting he wanted the first round of talks complete in the next few months.

But he said in order to finish the first phase of talks, Mrs May must translate her government’s intentions into negotiating positions. 

Last night, Mrs May promised to make it as easy as possible for the 3 million EU citizens to stay in the UK.

She wrote: “As I travel to Brussels today, I know that many people will be looking to us – the leaders of the 28 nations in the EU – to demonstrate we are putting people first.”

She said “citizens rights are my first priority”, adding: “When we started this process, some accused us of treating EU nationals as bargaining chips.

“Nothing could have been further from the truth.

“I couldn’t be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.”

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