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1ST LEAD May chairs cabinet meeting ahead of Brexit speech in Florence By Bill Smith, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
London (dpa) - Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a special cabinet meeting on Thursday to discuss her much-anticipated speech on Brexit this week, as critics said divisions in the government could make any new pledges largely symbolic.

May‘s government made no immediate comment following the meeting at Downing Street, her London residence, which took place amid a reported split in the cabinet over how to proceed with Brexit.

The BBC quoted an unnamed cabinet minister as saying before the meeting that May plans to make an "open and generous offer" to the remaining 27 EU member states in her speech - to be delivered Friday in Florence - as she bids to break the deadlock in negotiations on Britain leaving the European Union.

She is expected to propose transitional arrangements for after Brexit takes effect in March 2019 and offer to settle EU demands for Britain‘s Brexit "divorce bill."

But EU leaders fear that a weakened May will not be able to keep the promises she makes, Keir Starmer, the opposition Labour party‘s shadow Brexit minister, told The Guardian.

"They want to see real progress, and they want follow-through," Starmer was quoted as saying. "Not a speech and nothing else."

The newspaper said he was speaking after meeting "all the major players in the EU‘s negotiating team" this week, including Michel Barnier, the EU‘s chief Brexit negotiator.

The Financial Times said May was expected to "offer to fill a post-Brexit EU budget hole of at least 20 billion euros (24 billion dollars)" for the two years after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.

But it said EU officials had claimed that Britain had liabilities of up to 100 billion euros, "which would net out at 60 billion euros when British receipts are stripped out."

Ahead of Friday‘s speech, speculation of a new rift in May‘s Conservative Party has been fuelled by a controversial, 4,000-word "vision for Brexit," published by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Saturday.

Johnson, who has played down reports of a split in the cabinet, emerged smiling after Thursday‘s meeting but declined to answer questions.


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(19.10.2017 23:49)

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