EU leaders play down Brexit talks progress after Theresa May's plea for 'urgency'

Aubrey Allegretti, Political Reporter

EU leaders have welcomed Theresa May's latest offer to free up Brexit negotiations but talked down chances of them moving on to the crucial trade stage.

Angela Merkel arrived at a summit of the 28 countries in Brussels, praising the "encouraging" progress.

Mrs May trailed her journey there with news she would make it easier for the three million EU citizens living in Britain to remain here after March 2019.

But EU leaders are expected to vote down a motion confirming "sufficient progress" has been made since Article 50 was triggered.

:: Goldman boss signals Brexit shift to Frankfurt

That would mean Brexit Secretary David Davis is powerless to begin negotiations on the UK's future relationship with the EU, including on trade.

Mr Davis gave an interview to European media on the eve of the summit trying to exert his own leverage, calling for the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to be given "more leeway in his mandate".

But French President Emmanuel Macron downplayed the idea, telling reporters as he arrived in Brussels that the EU27 was "united" behind Mr Barnier.

The Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, also went on the defensive.

He told Sky News it was "pretty clear" EU leaders would vote down the "sufficient progress" motion.

He did say a statement would be passed in the "spirit" of progress and added: "The wording will be encouraging."

Mrs May remained defiant at the summit, hailing the "concrete progress made so far" and stressing "urgency" of agreeing deals on things like citizens' rights.

She added the UK would play a full role in dealing with the shared challenges of counter-terrorism, migration and defence.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also been in Brussels , flanked by a delegation of shadow ministers, and held several meetings with top level EU officials.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News it was only "responsible" for the Opposition to be meeting with Mr Barnier "to make sure that we fully understand the seriousness of the situation".

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes