LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May will be blocked from negotiating Brexit with fellow European leaders once talks officially get underway, senior figures from the European Union warned on Wednesday.
May will not be invited to meetings of the heads of government of other member states and will only be allowed to discuss the terms of Brexit with Michel Barnier, European Commission’s chief negotiator, the Times newspaper reported.
This latest development is yet another blow to May’s Brexit plan.
The prime minister has insisted during her general election campaign that she’ll talk to “prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of Europe” in order to get the best exit deal for Britain.
However, this does not appear to be part of the EU’s thinking. A spokesperson for the European Commission confirmed that meetings between Britain and the other 27 member states will not be a feature of Brexit negotiations.
The spokesperson added: “No. The commission is the union negotiator and Michel Barnier is the person who will negotiate on behalf of the EU. We are very clear about that.”
It comes as tension between UK government and Brussels continues to grow, with the latter taking an increasingly hardline approach to what it is willing to concede to Britain as it begins its formal departure from the 28-nation bloc.
European press reported earlier this week that May’s recent dinner with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker did not go as planned for the UK prime minister. Juncker allegedly told May that Brexit “could not be a success” and added what she wants to achieve in negotiations is in a different “galaxy” to what the EU will allow.
May played down reports as “Brussels gossip” but said Juncker and the rest of the EU will soon find out that she is a “bloody difficult woman” to deal with.
The EU also reportedly intends to charge Britain a divorce bill worth up to €109 billion (£92.2 billion), a significantly larger bill than the €60 billion departure fee that has previously been reported.
Brexit Secretary David Davis told the BBC this morning that Britain would not pay this divorce bill, saying it would only hand over what is legally owed, “not just what the EU wants.”
The BBC’s Andrew Neil reports that figures in Brussels are trying to get Davis sacked as Britain’s Brexit Secretary.
In her Article 50 letter to the EU, May said she wants to form a “new deep and special partnership” with the EU and the strength of this partnership will be put to the test when negotiations officially get underway in a few weeks’ time.
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