PM urges Brexit deal ‘we can defend’ to public

Theresa May has warned EU leaders of her political difficulties in the UK and urged them to help deliver a deal she can defend domestically.

The high-stakes plea, a clear reference to the internal wrangling within her own Cabinet, seeks to persuade European leaders to help her own political capital in the UK, by offering something in return for her Florence speech offer.

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Addressing her fellow leaders over an EU Council summit dinner, the Prime Minister said the UK intended to take a “creative and pragmatic approach to securing a deep and special partnership”.

She reiterated an “unconditional commitment to security” in Europe.

She acknowledged that the process was “in difficulty” during the summer and decided to take stock and make a step forward with the Florence speech.

The PM referenced “a difficult political backdrop” in the UK and said the EU27 must deliver to her a deal “we can stand behind and defend to our people”.

She concluded by urging the EU27 to have a “clear and urgent imperative” to create a “dynamic that enables us to move forward together”.

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:: EU leaders play down Brexit talks progress

On the first day of the summit EU leaders welcomed Mrs May’s latest offer to free up Brexit negotiations but talked down chances of them moving on to the crucial trade stage.

They are expected today to vote down a motion confirming “sufficient progress” has been made since Article 50 was triggered.

That would mean Brexit Secretary David Davis is powerless to begin negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, including on trade.

Mr Davis gave an interview to European media on the eve of the summit trying to exert his own leverage, calling for the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to be given “more leeway in his mandate”.

But French President Emmanuel Macron downplayed the idea, telling reporters as he arrived in Brussels that the EU27 was “united” behind Mr Barnier.

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The Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, also went on the defensive.

He told Sky News it was “pretty clear” EU leaders would vote down the “sufficient progress” motion.

He did say a statement would be passed in the “spirit” of progress and added: “The wording will be encouraging.”

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Mrs May remained defiant at the summit, hailing the “concrete progress made so far” and stressing “urgency” of agreeing deals on things like citizens’ rights.

She added the UK would play a full role in dealing with the shared challenges of counter-terrorism, migration and defence.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also been in Brussels, flanked by a delegation of shadow ministers, and held several meetings with top level EU officials.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News it was only “responsible” for the Opposition to be meeting with Mr Barnier “to make sure that we fully understand the seriousness of the situation”.