What is Theresa May Cooking in Brussels?
Ahead of this week’s EU summit where the EU27 leaders will decide whether sufficient progress has been made for the Brexit negotiations to move on to discussions of the future trade relationship, Theresa May has planned a surprise dinner for EU commission officials.
The private dinner, scheduled for this evening at 6.30pm, Brussels time, with European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, is intended to spice up and invigorate the Brexit talks. The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Davis, May’s chief Brexit adviser Oliver Robbins and Juncker’s chief of staff Martin Selmayr would also be attending the dinner. It is anticipated to last for 90 minutes. German lawyer Selmayr is understood to be the most important man in tonight’s dinner, due to his attention to detail and his power in Brussels and Berlin.
As she arrives in Brussels, May will also be meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron and the Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar.
There are worries that the discussions at the dinner might get leaked, since last April when Juncker met May in Downing Street, German media reported what was said sparking criticism and May’s wrath, who said that European technocrats were trying to sabotage the general election. Selmayr was identified as the man behind the leaks and the one to look out for if the British want to move things forward. But the dinner today is expected to be “constructive,” May’s spokesman said, while he downplayed rumours that she might be putting a new financial offer on the table.
Autopsies, deadlocks and Chianti
One can imagine Theresa May arriving in Brussels with a bottle of Chianti. Wonder what goes with that? Juncker’s tongue or Barnier’s heart? But seriously, Juncker, himself, didn’t miss the opportunity to comment on this evening’s surprise dinner and said that reporters would have “the post mortem report tomorrow.” While Downing Street hopes that the content of this evening’s dinner won’t be leaked, Jean-Claude Juncker has been joking about the so-called “autopsy” of the dinner being available to journalists tomorrow.
With talks of “post-mortem” and “autopsy” reports, Juncker is preparing for this evening’s dinner with the enthusiasm of a Hannibal Lecter, ready to dissect proposals and offers with the precision of a surgeon. One can only hope that May and Juncker would be breaking bread, rather than breaking bad.
Last week’s talks between Davis and Barnier, reached a “deadlock,” in Barnier’s words, and May’s surprise dinner, is perhaps a last attempt to revive talks, and perhaps, make one last offering to appease the Great Old Ones. The European officials are enjoying their privileged position, atop their thrones overlooking the desperate attempts of the UK government to satisfy their demands, without offering any concessions.
For EU officials, tonight’s event won’t be part of the official Brexit negotiations, but is watched by both analysts, politicians and world leaders as a game changer.
Damian Green, first secretary of state, said about May’s dinner with Juncker later today: “Obviously the prime minister is keeping in close touch not just with Mr Juncker but with other European leaders because it’s important that we continue [the] dialogue. These are tough negotiations, they are very important negotiations, but the prime minister’s Florence speech set out a constructive way forward, it does seem to have landed well with many European leaders. It’s a question of following up on that so we can have steady progress towards the good Brexit deal that we’re all hoping for.”
Analysts are viewing May’s dinner today as a positive step forward which will help move the negotiations and give them a new impetus, in the same manner that her Florence speech was utilised. While the GBP/USD pair dropped to $1.32 after a Bloomberg report described how the Brexit negotiations could be headed for a breakdown, with the EU remaining uncompromising, pressure has subsided since investors are now awaiting patiently for the “autopsy” results of May’s emergency dinner with the top EU officials. However, for many analysts, the coming week is considered to be volatile for currency due to economic reports and tomorrow’s inflation figures for the UK and the Eurozone. UK inflation is expected to reach a five-year high, renewing pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates.