British PM heads to Brussels to unblock Brexit talks

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British PM Theresa May has faced ample criticism over her handling of Brexit’s negotiations. AFP

LONDON (AFP) – British Prime Minister Theresa May is travelling to Brussels on Monday for dinner with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a bid to unblock Brexit talks ahead of a decisive European Union summit this week.

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They will be joined by British Brexit minister David Davis and his EU counterpart, chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, May’s spokesman told reporters.

Mr Juncker declined to answer questions about the content of the meeting ahead of time, telling reporters in Brussels: “I will meet Mrs May this evening, we will talk and you will see the autopsy.”

With criticism of her Brexit strategy building up at home from both moderates and hardliners within her own Conservative party, Mrs May is hoping for a breakthrough that will bolster her position and ease some of the uncertainty around Britain’s withdrawal.

EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday are due to decide whether or not negotiators can move on to discussing post-Brexit trade ties with Britain if “sufficient progress” has been made in divorce talks.

The indication from the EU side is that they will postpone their decision to a summit in December as the break-up negotiations are currently deadlocked.

But Britain is still hoping for a positive signal that will ease growing concern, including from business leaders who say they will have start shifting some operations to the EU by the end of the year unless there is more certainty on Brexit.

“We’ve always said we want Britain leaving the EU to be a smooth process and this is part of achieving that,” May’s spokesman said of the 90-minute dinner which is to start at around 6:30 pm (1630 GMT).

He said the meeting was put in the diary “a number of weeks ago” even though it has not previously been mentioned either by British or EU officials.

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