Theresa May launches diplomatic offensive in bid to break Brexit deadlock before crunch EU summit
Theresa May has launched a fresh diplomatic offensive in a bid to kick-start the stalled Brexit negotiations.
The Prime Minister is planning more talks with European leader ahead of a crunch EU summit in Brussels later this week.
Mrs May will also have dinner with European Commission president Jean-Cluade Juncker and EU negotiator Michel Barnier in the Belgian capital this evening as she seeks to persuade the bloc to start talks on trade and a post-Brexit transitional deal.
It follows Mr Barnier's warning that the talks had reached a "very disturbing" deadlock over the UK's refusal to put a figure on how much it is willing to pay as a Brexit divorce bill.
Speaking at the end of the fifth round of negotiations, he said he could not recommend to the 27 other EU member states that the talks move on to discussing trade and the transition period because not enough progress had been made on citizens' rights, the divorce bill and Ireland.
According to The Guardian, the Prime Minister will phone French president Emmanuel Macron this afternoon in another attempt to inject some impetus into the discussions.
Mrs May's official spokesman said this evening's 90-minute dinner, which will also be attended by Brexit Secretary David Davis, had been in her diary "for a number of weeks" and denied it smacked of panic.
He said: "If you look over the course of the past month or more, there's been a series of engagements between the Prime Minister and European leaders. She met with (EU Council president) Donald Tusk at the UN General Assembly, she met with Chancellor Merkel in Tallinn, she also met with the Polish PM in recent days.
"She's spoken with (Dutch) PM Rutte, she's spoken with Angela Merkel yesterday morning, with Donald Tusk on Thursday evening, and you can expect her to have conversations with other European leaders today and going forward.
"The PM said her Florence speech was intended to create momentum, we believe you have seen that. It's been received very constructively by the EU27 and by the Commission, and in the talks last week we made more progress towards finding a solution on citizens' rights, which the PM has said is a priority.
"This is part of a wider programme of engagements you've seen in recent weeks and will continue to see going forward. We've always said we want Britain leaving the European Union to be a smooth process and this is part of achieving that.".
However, the spokesman said the Prime Minister would not be making any fresh offer this evening on the Brexit divorce bill.
He said: "The PM set out her position in the Florence speech in relation to the settlement and that's where we are. The point of the dinner is to discuss a range of subjects."
Mr Juncker said the EU would issue an "autopsy report" after this evening's dinner.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has said it time to "get on" with EU trade talks.
Speaking in Luxembourg, the Foreign Secretary said: "We think in the U.K. that is it time to get on with these negotiations. It is ready for the great ship to go down the shipway and on the open sea, for us to start some serious conversations about the future and the new relationship … and I think we will work very much in the interests of both sides."