Theresa May Brexit speech to be 'open and generous offer' to EU


Boris Johnson and Theresa MayImage copyright
Reuters

Theresa May’s speech on Brexit in Italy on Friday will represent an “open and generous offer” to the rest of the EU, a cabinet minister has told the BBC.

It is thought that might include a guarantee that no EU country would lose out from changes to the EU’s current budget as a result of the UK leaving.

But another minister warned against offering too much on the money, saying “it’s our only leverage”.

Mrs May is briefing her cabinet on Thursday morning about the the speech.

The event in Florence is being seen as an attempt to break the deadlock on the negotiations, with the EU unhappy at the lack of progress on agreeing the UK’s “divorce bill” from Brussels.

The cabinet meeting comes amid reports of ministerial splits over Brexit.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was accused of undermining the PM with a 4,000-word article about Brexit.

He subsequently denied reports he planned to resign if his blueprint was not followed and described the government as “a nest of singing birds”.

The foreign secretary and prime minister were due to travel back from the United Nations in New York together on Wednesday night.

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Getty Images

Image caption

Boris Johnson watched the PM’s address to the UN general assembly in New York on Wednesday

Debate ahead of the speech has focused on the detail of the time-limited transition period after Brexit, how much the UK will pay as it leaves, and whether it will continue contributing to EU budgets in years to come.

So far, the government has said the UK will honour its commitments but that the days of “giving huge sums of money” are over.

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Media captionWhy Florence?

Downing Street has also described as “speculation” a Financial Times report that chief Brexit “sherpa” Olly Robbins, who reports directly to Mrs May, had told Germany she will offer to pay £20bn in the period up to 2020 to cover gaps in the budget left by the UK’s departure.

The fourth round of Brexit negotiations begins on 25 September, with the UK due to leave the EU in March 2019.

The UK is keen to intensify their pace and open discussions on the country’s future relationship with the EU, including trade, as soon as possible.

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Media captionTheresa May asked about Johnson’s intervention on Brexit

But this cannot happen until the EU deems sufficient progress has been made on the initial subjects being discussed, including the UK’s financial settlement.

The two sides are also trying to reach agreement on the status of UK and EU expats after Brexit, and the impact of Brexit on the Northern Ireland border.

BBC political correspondent Leila Nathoo said Mrs May’s challenge is to make enough of a gesture to Brussels to kickstart negotiations, while reconciling both Remainers and Brexiteers in Cabinet to her position.

On the detail of a proposed transition period, the Brexit bill and any payments to the EU after we leave, the prime minister’s speech will be closely watched for points of compromise, said our correspondent.



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