Theresa May will not be joining EU leaders at their ‘60th birthday’ celebrations – but has insisted her absence is not a “snub”.
The Prime Minister has decided not to travel to Rome at the end of next week for the landmark event to mark 60 years since the birth of the European project.
The extraordinary European Council will take place just days before Ms May finally triggers Article 50, to kick-start the negotiations on Britain’s UK exit.
But her official spokesman said he did not expect Britain to be represented at all when the other 27 EU leaders mark the anniversary of the signing of the founding Treaty of Rome.
He said: “It was agreed between them that the Prime Minister won’t be attending. She was clear that she wished the EU well. There were very cordial conversations’
Asked why Ms May would not be attending, the spokesman added: “The EU 27 are moving in one direction, the British public voted to go in another direction.”
But asked if - given the event will be a celebration of 60 years of working together - her decision was a “snub”, the spokesman insisted there was a “widespread understanding” of why Britain should stay away.
Some figures in Brussels had feared the anniversary event could be marred by the invoking of the formal mechanism to withdraw Britain from the EU, now expected on March 27.
The occasion will also be marked by a ‘March for Europe’, a demonstration by EU citizens to show their support for the European project and to call for renewed unity across Europe.
The newly-established group British in Italy (BiI) will take part, underlining its campaign to retain the rights which Britons have as EU citizens once Britain leaves the EU.
BiI is mobilising with other groups of Britons living in Spain, France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg to lobby politicians to strengthen EU foreign, security, economic and social policies.