European Council President Donald Tusk will discuss Brexit with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London next Tuesday (26 September), only days after she is due to make a key speech on how she sees the UK’s future ties with the EU.
Tusk tweeted about the meeting after talking to May on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) September 19, 2017
The meeting takes place between two key dates: May will deliver her speech in Florence on Friday (22 September), while EU heads of state will have a joint dinner on 28 September in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, which holds the rotating EU presidency.
Brexit is unlikely to be a topic around the table, but May could use the opportunity to present her views. A month later, on 19-20 October, the European Council has to decide if negotiations have advanced enough for talks to move on to post-Brexit issues.
The Financial Times has reported this week that, according to UK officials, May will promise in Florence to pay a Brexit divorce bill of at least €20 billion.
EU officials, however, have mentioned a figure of around €60 billion, what the Commission has estimated may be payable before Brexit in March 2019.
The divorce talks, led by Michel Barnier for the bloc and David Davis for the UK, have made little progress since their launch in June. The two sides remain bogged down in discussions of the three priorities: the Brexit bill, the rights of EU and UK citizens abroad and the Northern Ireland border.
The EU has made it clear there would be no talks on a variety of legal, political and economic issues – essentially on the UK’s future relations with the bloc – before an agreement is reached on the ‘big three’. It has openly dismissed the position papers the UK has submitted so far as vague and insufficient.
This has worried businesses on both sides of the Channel, who increasingly believe time is running out for reaching a comprehensive deal before March 2019 and privately mention support for an extension of the talks – which would have to be approved by all of the EU’s 27 members – and for transitional arrangements.