- Reuters/Stefan Wermuth
- Theresa May to give a major “update” on Brexit negotiations in Florence, Italy next week. The prime minister will discuss how negotiations with the EU have gone so far, six months after she triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. A spokesperson for the PM refused to confirm whether the speech would contain any new proposals.
LONDON – Prime Minister Theresa May will next week travel to Italy to deliver a major speech on Brexit in what is being billed by Downing Street as a hugely important moment in negotiations.
May will address the world’s media in the historic city of Florence on Friday, September 22 “to update on Brexit negotiations so far,” a Downing Street spokesperson said on Wednesday.
The keynote speech will take place six months on from when May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and just a week before the Conservative Party will come together in Manchester for its highly-anticipated annual conference.
The prime minister will use the speech to “underline the government’s wish for a deep and special partnership with the European Union once the UK leaves the EU,” the spokesperson added.
May’s spokesperson refused to disclose further details on what the speech would include and whether it would contain any new information on proposals. “The PM has said that she would provide updates on how the negotiations were going and be engaged in an ongoing conversation with Europe, and that’s what she’s doing,” they added.
The news comes just a week after Guy Verhofstadt, the EU Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, claimed that the next round of Brexit talks, originally set to begin on September 18, had been delayed by a week in order to accommodate May’s intervention.
May’s spokesperson denied reports that the prime minister’s speech was the reason for negotiations being pushed back, saying: “Both sides have settled on the date for the next round, after discussions between senior officials, in recognition that more time and consultation would give negotiations a flexibility to make further progress.”
Prime Minister May has chosen Florence as the location for her speech as she “wanted to give a speech on the UK’s future relationship with Europe in its historical heart,” her spokesperson added.
“The UK has had deep cultural and economic ties spanning centuries with Florence, a city known for its historical trading power. As the UK leaves the EU, we will retain those close ties. As the prime minister has said on many occasions, we are leaving the EU, not Europe,” they said.
Figures in London and in Brussels will hope that May’s speech will help thaw recent tensions between the two sides and encourage process on key issues that are currently preventing negotiations from reaching the next stage.
British and EU negotiators are still yet to reach an agreement on the issues of citizens’ rights, the Irish border, and Britain’s financial obligations, or “divorce bill” as it’s more commonly known. The EU has insisted that talks on future relations cannot begin until “sufficient progress” has been made on these issues.
At the end of last month, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said there had been no ‘decisive progress on any of the principle subjects’ aforementioned, while the EU Parliament’s Brexit spokesperson, Guy Verh0fstadt, described the proposals put forward by the British side on these issues as “not serious, fair or even possible.”