Brexit negotiations should accelerate, say May and Juncker

Brexit negotiations should “accelerate over the months to come,” says a joint statement from the UK prime minister and the president of the EU Commission.

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker met in Brussels earlier for a dinner they called “constructive and friendly”.

The meeting comes after the latest round of negotiations, where the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the two sides had reached “deadlock”.

Downing Street sources said the dinner had “been in the diary for weeks”.

Mrs May and Mr Juncker said they had had a “broad, constructive exchange on current European and global challenges”, including preserving the Iran nuclear deal and strengthening security in Europe to battle terrorism.

The pair – who were joined by Mr Barnier and Brexit Secretary David Davis – then spoke about Article 50 negotiations.

“The prime minister and the president of the European Commission reviewed the progress made in the Article 50 negotiations so far and agreed that these efforts should accelerate over the months to come,” the statement read.

“The working dinner took place in a constructive and friendly atmosphere.”

‘Accelerate’ – the word the Tories need

By Laura Kuenssberg, BBC political editor

Accelerate, accelerate, accelerate, accelerate.

OK, in theory, if I am driving a car at four miles per hour and I speed up to eight miles per hour, technically I am accelerating.

I may still be basically crawling along. I still may be late – very, very late – for my eventual destination. But, by the very action of pressing the pedal and going faster, I am actually speeding up.

If anyone accuses me of going nowhere, or slowing down – well, look at my speedometer. I am going faster and I have evidence that you are wrong!

That is why, in the next few days, don’t be surprised if every Tory politician you see, hear, or read about is using that word (at least those loyal to the government) to claim that there is progress in the Brexit talks, just days after the chief negotiator on the EU side declared a deadlock.

Read more of Laura Kuenssberg’s blog here.

The three initial topics for negotiation – the amount the UK owes the EU when it leaves, the future rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU, and what happens on the Northern Ireland border – were expected to dominate the conversation ahead of an EU summit later this week, attended by the leaders of the 27 EU countries.

Mrs May hopes that the leaders will give Mr Barnier a mandate to start talks on future trade.

But the EU has said that until “sufficient progress” is made on the three topics they will not begin discussing the UK’s post-Brexit relations.

Mr Barnier has also said there is still no agreement on how much the UK should pay the EU when it leaves.

Last week an internal draft document suggested the EU was going to begin preparing for the possibility of trade talks beginning in December – provided the UK does more to bridge the gap on the key negotiating points.

The PM discussed Brexit ahead of the dinner in phone calls with French President Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel.

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