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Brexit: EU Leaders Seek Brexit Talks Progress

mayEU leaders have urged Theresa May to do more to break the deadlock in the Brexit negotiations as they gather at a crunch Brussels summit.

Dutch PM Mark Rutte said “a lot more clarity” on the UK’s financial offer was needed before talks could progress.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there were “encouraging” signs but that progress so far was “not sufficient” to open trade talks.

However, Mrs Merkel suggested this could happen in December.

Mrs May, who has called for “urgency” in reaching agreement on the issue of citizens’ rights, will address EU leaders at the summit later.

At a meeting on Friday, at which the UK will not be present, the 27 leaders are expected to conclude officially that “insufficient progress” has been made on the first topics for discussion to move onto the second phase of trade discussions.

These topics are citizens’ rights, the UK’s financial obligation and the border in Northern Ireland.

The UK prime minister spoke of her desire for a future partnership with the EU as she arrived in Brussels, but added: “We’ll also be looking at the concrete progress that has been made in our exit negotiations and setting out ambitious plans for the weeks ahead.

“I particularly, for example, want to see an urgency in reaching an agreement on citizens’ rights.”

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Rutte said he welcomed the PM’s recent speech in Florence, where she set out what she has described as a “bold and ambitious agenda”.

But he said she needed to make “absolutely clear” what she was offering to do in relationship to the UK’s financial obligations towards the EU.

“Maybe it’s not possible now to name a number but at least to come up with a methodology, a system, a complete proposal to solve this issue,” he said.

“As long as that is not happening I don’t see how we can move forward.”

The October summit was always the first date in the EU calendar on which a gathering of the 27 heads of government could declare themselves satisfied with the Brexit divorce negotiations and agree to start talking about trade.

It’s been clear for weeks that they won’t do that – but they will offer the UK some encouragement by starting internal discussions about future trade with the UK – ready for any breakthrough at the next summit in December.

Theresa May isn’t expected to make any big new proposal in her after-dinner remarks but to underline the quality of the financial offer made in her speech in Florence – worth around £20bn.

The EU side wants more though – more money as well as further movement on citizens rights and the Irish border.

There are almost as many predictions about what happens next as there are diplomats in Brussels; one has suggested that the prospects of a December breakthrough are no better than fifty-fifty but an official close to the talks said the signal on Brexit from this summit would be fundamentally positive.

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