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Hardline Brussels to ban Theresa May from negotiating Brexit with other EU leaders

Hardline Brussels to ban Theresa May from negotiating Brexit with other EU leaders
British Prime Minister Theresa May will be blocked from negotiating Brexit with other European leaders, senior figures in Brussels have warned, in a further sign that the EU is settling on a hardline approach.

May will be left on the outside when future EU heads of states meet to talk Brexit. The only person she will be allowed to sit down with is the European Commission’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, the Times reports.

May has always insisted she would personally negotiate Brexit with the “prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of Europe.”

The issue of who will represent Britain is understood was apparently one of the contentious issues brought up during a now infamous dinner at Downing Street last week with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

May suggested she intends to take the lead in the final stage of negotiations, an insider told the Times.

“Juncker told her it is not going to work like that. It is not going to be a negotiation around a table between heads of state and government. It was very awkward. We thought David [Davis, the Brexit secretary] was in charge.”

A Commission spokesperson confirmed that talks would be run entirely by Barnier.

Asked whether there would be any direct negotiation between May and other member states on the ‘divorce’ settlement, the spokesperson said: “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.”

According to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine, May and Juncker “clashed” over a number of Brexit issues at last week’s dinner.

Juncker was reportedly shocked at May’s suggestion that a deal on citizens’ rights could be achieved so quickly. When May expressed her desire to make Brexit “a success,” Juncker replied that “Brexit cannot be a success.”

The newspaper also reported that there would be no trade deal between the UK and the rest of the EU if Britain fails to pay its divorce bill. When May said the UK owes no money to the EU, the EC president informed her that she was not leaving a “golf club.”

May dismissed the reports.

“I have to say what I’ve seen of this account, I think it’s Brussels gossip,” she said.

There have also been suggestions that some EU figures are unhappy at the role Davis is expected to take. One report said that some in the Commission believed it was “pointless” negotiating with him and had considered substituting Sabine Weyand, the EU’s deputy negotiator, for Barnier, to give Britain a “graceful” way of replacing Davis.

This has been denied.