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Afp

EU official: May statement underscores risk of no-deal Brexit

By AFP
media EU leaders will meet with Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (L) after an address by British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday to discuss whether there has been progress on Brexit talks for a new summit in November POOL/AFP

British Prime Minister Theresa May's statement to parliament on Brexit negotiations has underlined how hard it will be to reach an amicable divorce, a European official warned Tuesday.

May is due in Brussels on Wednesday to address the other 27 European Union leaders on progress towards agreeing a Brexit deal before the country leaves the bloc on March 29 next year.

After May's speech, the leaders will withdraw to meet EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier over dinner and decide if there is enough room for progress to bother organising another summit in November.

The British premier is under intense pressure at home not to give ground in negotiations, and on Monday addressed a restless House of Commons, insisting a deal is "achievable" without crossing her red lines.

The intervention apparently did little to reassure some of her own pro-Brexit ministers, who are reportedly plotting to push for her resignation, but officials in Brussels were not impressed either.

Briefing reporters on preparations for the summit, a senior European official said the speech had only underscored for Barnier the uphill struggle he faces to avoid a damaging "no-deal" Brexit.

"Not just the speech but also the answers that were given to a number of questions in the Commons, they indeed, for our chief negotiator, demonstrate that finding an agreement will be even more difficult than one could expect," the official said.

The official also said May had been invited to attend a bilateral meeting with summit host Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, before her speech to the leaders.

On Thursday, following Wednesday night's dinner for the 27 non-British leaders, the full 28 will hold a pre-planned summit focused on migration and security issues followed by a gala for Asian leaders.

 
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