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EU boss Donald Tusk announces December deadline for Brexit breakthrough

EU COUNCIL boss Donald Tusk last night put a December deadline on a Brexit breakthrough before planning for the EU’s own doomsday no deal scenario. And yesterday it emerged the German government are plotting to try kick talks about a Brexit transition deal into the New Year — prompting fears of a business exodus. Mr […]

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EU COUNCIL boss Donald Tusk last night put a December deadline on a Brexit breakthrough before planning for the EU’s own doomsday no deal scenario.

And yesterday it emerged the German government are plotting to try kick talks about a Brexit transition deal into the New Year — prompting fears of a business exodus.

EPA
Tusk has announced a December deadline[/caption]

Mr Tusk, who represents all EU leaders, insisted Brussels was still working towards a deal with Britain adding “we are negotiating in good faith and hope for ‘sufficient progress’ by December.”

But he warned that if there is no breakthrough by the end of the year, “then – together with our UK friends – we will have to think about where we are heading.”

He was responding to Theresa May’s declaration yesterday that she is getting Britain ready for a collapse in EU talks with “no deal planning”.

While the Polish heavyweight said he was “hopeful” that the breakthrough would come soon, he poured more cold water on it coming the crunch Council meeting in nine days time.

Yesterday it emerged the German government are trying to put a three month pause on separate negotiations about a transition phase for the UK out of the bloc.

The setback could spark a business exodus from Britain, as Brussels continued put thumbscrews on the UK to try force Theresa May to cough up on their Brexit bill demands.

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The PM recently said she is getting Britain ready for a collapse in EU talks[/caption]

Businesses have warned they will trigger their Brexit contingency plans – which could see them leave the UK – if clarity is not given soon.

But last night  government sources rejected the plot, claiming the political instability in Germany following Angela Merkel’s election upset was muddying the waters as the rudderless Germany “does not know what it really wants.”

But EU sources hit back, telling The Sun: “It’s just about the money going into October’s summit – pay the divorce bill, pay it in full, do that now, and even ‘sufficient progress’ for phase two could come next week.”

The UK is still pinning hopes on a breakthrough at this month’s EU council meeting, hoping the smaller EU countries will pressure Germany and France into beginning to scope out future trade talks with the UK.

NHS boss Simon Stevens revealed he had not been asked to make plans in the event of a no deal Brexit

But last night, Mrs May’s tough talk on “no deal” planning was hit by a major setback.

NHS boss Simon Stevens revealed he had not been asked to make plans in the event of a no deal Brexit while speaking to MPs.

Labour’s Ben Bradshaw said: “Have you been asked by your political masters to prepare contingencies for a no deal scenario which is what the Prime Minister was talking about yesterday?”

Mr Stevens replied: “We have not but I must say I don’t detect any disagreement with the proposition that in addition to continuing to grow our locally-trained staff here, the 25 per cent increase in doctors, the 25 per cent increase in nursing places, we will continue to rely on our international staff. That’s been true of the 69 years of the NHS and I don’t detect any dissent from that proposition.”

The Department for Health refused to comment.

Chancellor Philip Hammond dismissed demands from Brexiteers to use his Autumn Budget to commit billions of pounds to prepare for a No Deal scenario.

He said it would be irresponsible to to spend taxpayers money on preparing for such a scenario.

It will fuel further anger among Brexit supporting Tories who want the government to call the EU’s bluff by showing it is actively preparing to leave THE EU if Brexit talks end without a new agreement in place.

In an article in The Times he insists the Treasury will be prepared for “all outcomes” but is reluctant to sign of billions of money unless the threat of a no Deal is imminent.

EU's 'jet wreck' jibe

SNEERING Eurocrats have mocked Theresa May’s Brexit talks as a plane crash, with one official telling The Sun: “London is our black box”.

The source made the sly dig that Britain was lost as anger grew in Brussels over the PM’s claim the “ball was in the EU’s court” for further progress.

Yesterday Michael Barnier hit back at the line, saying: “Brexit is not a game, don’t forget that.”

The slapdown came as David Davis hosted a lunch for his negotiating counterpart at the UK’s official Brussels residence.

Speaking after a lunch of sea bass and Angus beef, washed down with English sparkling wine and French claret, Mr Barnier said: “The lunch was good and we had constructive talks.”

But asked if the ball was now in the EU’s court, the Frenchman spun round and wagged his finger at a BBC reporter, saying: “Brexit is not a game. Don’t forget.”

The UK hoping for “steady progress” in the fifth round of face to face talks in Brussels due to conclude on Thursday.

Despite continued deadlock over future payments to Brussels from Britain, negotiation insiders are hopeful of a breakthrough on EU citizens rights following the PM’s concession that EU judges can continue to rule over Brits during any transition phase out of the bloc.

 

Roddy Thomson and Harry Cole

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Donald Tusk says EU will prepare to talk trade in December and blasts downbeat Brexit envoy after talks with ‘optimistic and positive’ Theresa May

THERESA MAY is leaving Brussels “optimistic” about the future after EU boss Donald Tusk said the bloc will start preparing for Brexit trade talks in December. And in a double boost for the Prime Minister as she departs the two-day crunch EU summit – the Commission President Jean Claude Juncker has said he DOES expect a […]

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THERESA MAY is leaving Brussels “optimistic” about the future after EU boss Donald Tusk said the bloc will start preparing for Brexit trade talks in December.

And in a double boost for the Prime Minister as she departs the two-day crunch EU summit – the Commission President Jean Claude Juncker has said he DOES expect a deal between Britain and the EU to go ahead in the end.

Theresa May went on to breakfast with other EU leaders – she put a comforting hand on Jean Claude Juncker’s shoulder
AFP

On a day expected to be filled with doom and gloom about Brexit, the Prime Minister was all smiles and feeling up-beat about how talks were progressing – despite reports of an impasse just last week.

Markets – who had priced in that talks would not move forward as hopes – remained stable.

In Brussels today:

  • The EU said that not enough progress had been made to talk trade now, but internal talks will begin to prepare to start them in December
  • Mrs May told reporters that she was “positive and optimistic” about Brexit talks
  • Donald Tusk remained cheery, saying trust and good will had been restored between Britain and the UK, and rejecting his colleague Michel Barnier’s claims that talks were in “deadlock”
  • Mr Juncker insisted that he “hated” the idea of no-deal, but risked fury by saying that the British had no idea what they voted for in opting for Brexit
  • France’s President Macron was firm that we are “far from what is needed” to secure an agreement on the divorce bill – after reports that Mrs May had agreed in private to cough up more cash
Donald Tusk said reports of a deadlock had been hyped up and he remained positive that agreement will be reached
EPA
But President Macron claimed not even half the work on the divorce bill had been done
EPA
Jean Claude Juncker rolls his eyes as the press try to speak to him – but he says he DOES want a deal with Britain
EPA

EU Leaders took just 90 SECONDS to agree on their new Brexit position today – rejecting beginning trade talks now but saying they should move on “as soon as possible”.

The remaining 27 members “welcomed” the progress made so far on citizens rights and on Northern Ireland.

But they stood firm on noting that the UK’s financial offers have “not yet been translated into a firm and concrete commitment.”

Mr Tusk tweeted this morning: “Brexit conclusions adopted. Leaders green-light internal EU27 preparations for 2nd phase. “.

Angela Merkel insisted yesterday that meetings have been “encouraging” and she hoped that by December enough had been done in order to move on further.

And Polish PM Beata Szydło said the EU should “very positively evaluate the proposition that May presented in Florence”.

But their French counterpart Emmanuel Macron was more pessimistic, saying that we are “far from what is needed” to move on and accused Britain of “bluffing” by preparing for no deal.

In a press conference today he said: “I can only underline how much work needs to be done.”

Mrs May said she was hopeful for Britain’s future, and talks had made a lot of progress so far
EPA
The PM was able to hail the progress made during the talks and EU summit
EPA

In a cheery news conference this morning Mrs May said: “I am ambitious and positive for Britain’s future, and for these negotiations.”

She promised to fight for a relationship based on the same “fundamental beliefs” of the EU – including free trade, fair competition, and strong consumer rights – but admitted that there was “some way to go”.

The PM said the summit was “an important moment to assess and reflect on how to make further progress” and she urged all sides to work together to get a good deal that “works for all our people”.

But she declined to comment on reports this morning that she has secretly agreed to pay the EU even more money that previously expected – up to €40billion.

Mrs May said that we wouldn’t get a final figure on how much we’ll pay until the final agreement was bashed out, but said the EU would not be out of pocket for the next few years.

Theresa May privately agrees to DOUBLE Brexit divorce bill to €40bn

THERESA MAY has had talks in private about what she is prepared to pay the EU to quit.

According to reports in The Times, she said she could be willing to give over an extra €20billion (£17bn) to the bloc – to cover future liabilities.

But that’s on top of the €20bn offer to pay in during a transition period of up to two years.

Last week the European Parliament boss Antonio Tajani said her offer so far was “peanuts” and that €50bn or €60bn (£63bn) was needed.

But we’re unlikely to know the final bill until the final deal is agreed, Mrs May has said.

Publically the PM has yet to speak about a figure, but has been clear that the EU will not be out of pocket for the next few years as a result of our decision to leave.

She has promised to pay up what we owe and potentially dish out more in future for projects we want to stay a part of, but has vowed to go through the demands from the EU “line by line” to ensure we get value for money.

Mr Tusk looked pleased to see the British Prime Minister too as he reached out to greet her
EPA
The PM will be pleased with comments this morning which welcomed her ‘warm’ speech
AP:Associated Press
They sat down for bilateral talks this morning – and everything looked very friendly
AP:Associated Press

And today the traditionally gloomy Mr Juncker said: “I hate the no-deal scenario… I am not in favour of no deal.

“I want to have a fair deal with Britain.”

But he risked aggravating Brexiteers by saying that “nobody explained in the first place to the British people what Brexit actually meant”.

He added that there would not be a “miracle” today but that “work is going on” to move things forward.

His colleague Donald Tusk was far more upbeat, insisting that reports of “deadlock” from the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has been “exaggerated”.

He said in a press conference: “While progress is not sufficient, it doesn’t mean there is no progress at all.”

Praising the “momentum” from the PM’s Florence speech, he said that there was “positive motivation” to make the progress needed in the coming six weeks.

She peruses the menu next to Maltese PM Joseph Muscat
AP:Associated Press
A happy Theresa May arrives this morning after talks last night appeared to go well
AFP or licensors
Mrs May had breakfast with Donald Tusk before giving a press conference earlier today
AFP or licensors

Last night Mrs May warned EU leaders to soften their Brexit demands or she won’t be able to sell any deal to the British people.

Issuing a crucial pitch for progress to Europe’s bosses at a summit dinner, the Prime Minister called on them not to push her into a corner.

Mrs May told them: “We must work together to get to an outcome we can stand behind and defend to our people”.

And this morning Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat lavished praise on Mrs May’s after-dinner speech last night, saying it was her “best performance yet”.

He said that the speech was “constructive” and she conveyed a “warm, candid and sincere appeal that she wants progress to be made”.

The Maltese leader said that the wording of today’s conclusions from the council meeting “will show that there is willingness from the EU to move forward”.

The pair laughed during today’s breakfast meeting with other EU leaders.

Going well? Mrs May and Mr Muscat exchange pleasantries as they chose what to have for breakfast today
AP:Associated Press
Theresa May talked with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron yesterday – and it seemed to be going well
AFP or licensors
The PM engaged in chats with other EU leaders during the two-day summit
AFP or licensors

The PM stuck to her guns on the major sticking point of the divorce bill – money.

During her late night address at the end of the three course dinner, she again refused to spell out any sum that the UK was prepared to pay, or details on how to calculate it.

Instead, she only repeated the “firm commitment” in her Florence speech last month that Britain would pay up what it owes.

No10 refused hard Brexiteers’ demand to walk out of the negotiations when the EU formally turns down the PM’s plea to move onto trade deal talks later today.

Angela Merkel also offered embattled Mrs May a lifeline by declaring trade and transition talks could begin by Christmas.

After refusing the PM’s plea to declare “sufficient progress”, the powerful German Chancellor said she thought it would be possible to “take the work forward and then reach the start of the second phase in December”.

And she said there was “no doubt” a Brexit deal would be secured in the end.

She added: “We are going to achieve a good outcome.

“As far as I am concerned, I don’t hear any reason to believe that we are not going to be successful.”

Angela Merkel has high hopes that talks on trade can begin before Christmas
AP:Associated Press
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David Davis accuses EU of dragging out Brexit talks to ‘pressure’ Britain into paying bigger divorce bill

VEXED David Davis has accused the EU of dragging out negotiations to “pressure” Britain into paying a bigger divorce bill. The Brexit Secretary said the UK had “reached the limit” of what talks could achieve without expanding to trade talks – as EU businesses demanded talks speed up. He told MPs: “They’re using time pressure […]

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VEXED David Davis has accused the EU of dragging out negotiations to “pressure” Britain into paying a bigger divorce bill.

The Brexit Secretary said the UK had “reached the limit” of what talks could achieve without expanding to trade talks – as EU businesses demanded talks speed up.

He told MPs: “They’re using time pressure to see if they can get more money out of us, and bluntly, that’s what’s going on.”

Mr Davis was updating the Commons just hours after he travelled to Brussels with the Prime Minister for dinner with EU chiefs.

Both sides agreed to “accelerate” divorce talks ahead of a crunch meeting of all 28 EU leaders on Thursday.

But EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier hit back: “It takes two to accelerate.”

Officially announcing that he could not recommend that “sufficient progress” has been made on exit terms to allow trade talks to start, the Frenchman would only recommend the EU begin to prepare for them.

Theresa May with Jean-Claude Juncker after the pair had dinner in Brussels last night
AP:Associated Press
Mr Barnier said that the EU was not holding up talks with Britain
David Davis and Michel Barnier ended a fifth round of EU talks last week
AP

He added: “The clock is ticking very fast. We have a lot of work to do.”

Responding to the idea the EU was dragging their feet, Mr Barnier said the claims were “a bit odd” as it was not him “holding things up.”

Telling Britain to “look at the timetable”, Mr Barnier complained that the UK had waited for more than a year to trigger the official exit process, and then further delayed talks with an election.

He added the EU were “ready and wiling to speed up talks” as soon as Britain provided more detail over future payments into the EU budget promised in Mrs May’s Florence speech.

The 27 national bosses must decide later this week when to move on to Brexit transition talks and a trade deal.

It came as senior EU officials claimed they are fast losing confidence in the prospects of a Brexit breakthough before Christmas.
“We are not confident, we are hopeful,” one told The Sun.

Finding the breakthrough in time for the December summit “depends to a large extent on the UK side,” the EU official insisted.

Last night some of Europe’s leading employers also called for “rapid” talks, calling on the UK to “provide further concrete negotiating proposals”
BusinessEurope said “business is extremely concerned with the slow pace” of the talks.

The leading campaign group added the EU must then “constructively receive these proposals once they are presented.”

And they added: “We need transitional arrangements to allow companies enough time to prepare.”

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Theresa May sets off for crunch Brussels dinner after phoning EU leaders in desperate bid to break Brexit deadlock

THERESA May has set off for her crunch Brussels dinner after phoning round EU leaders in a desperate bid to break the Brexit deadlock this week. The Prime Minister called her Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar and French president Emmanuel Macron today in a last-ditch attempt to convince them to allow negotiations to move onto next […]

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THERESA May has set off for her crunch Brussels dinner after phoning round EU leaders in a desperate bid to break the Brexit deadlock this week.

The Prime Minister called her Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar and French president Emmanuel Macron today in a last-ditch attempt to convince them to allow negotiations to move onto next stage later this week.

Theresa May has set off for her crunch Brexit dinner in Brussels
Reuters

It comes after Mrs May spoke to German leader Angela Merkel yesterday ahead of the EU Council meeting on Thursday.

This afternoon she was seen leaving Downing Street with Brexit Secretary David Davis for dinner with Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier after last week’s talks were described as having a “disturbing” lack of progress.

Before she headed out Mrs May and Mr Macron “discussed progress” in exit talks and agreed to go over “next steps” on the margins of the crunch summit of all leaders in the bloc later this week, Downing Street said.

She also discussed “the importance of maintaining constructive progress” in negotiations with the Taoiseach Mr Varadkar and reiterated Britain’s commitment to maintaining a soft Irish border.

Beforehand she called her Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar and French president Emmanuel Macron
AP
She and David Davis will have dinner with Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier
Reuters

Number 10 said the dinner tonight, which is starting at around 5.30pm, had “been in the diary for weeks”.

But the announcement caused surprise in Westminster, and European officials said they were not certain when it was going to happen even as late as Friday last week.

A spokesman for the European Commission said the idea had been “on the agenda for a long time”, but the date ahead of a critical European Council meeting was not confirmed until the last few days.

The PM is only expected to spend 90 minutes in Brussels before returning to London ahead of a Cabinet meeting tomorrow morning.

Downing Street claim the event – which caused surprise in Westminster – had been in the diary for weeks
PA

She will hope the meal goes better than the last time she dined with EU chiefs Mr Juncker and Mr Barnier, which was heavily leaked to the press with the PM described as “deluded”.

Also attending the dinner are Number 10 Brexit adviser Olly Robbins and Mr Juncker's chief of staff Martin Selmayr, who was widely blamed for giving details to the press after the April summit in Downing Street.

She will hope to end the stalemate over withdrawal issues including the so-called "divorce bill" and the Irish border which are holding up talks on a post-Brexit trading relationship.

But the PM, whose flight to Belgium was not affected by Storm Ophelia, was not expected to make any new offers on the withdrawal issues tonight.

Her official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: "The PM set out our current position in Florence - as I have said many times we believe that did create momentum and has had a constructive response, that's our position."

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