Negotiators have been making progress this week following Theresa May’s Florence speech, even Michel Barnier could not deny that. Both sides have made the most of their recent detente, although their work risks being unravelled by Jean-Claude Juncker. The European Commission chief declared provocatively this afternoon at a summit of EU leaders in Estonia that Britain needed a “miracle” if it wanted Brexit talks to move onto trade next month. His outburst will raise fears in the British negotiating team that the Commission is holding up progress. The executive body refused to elaborate on what its president had said, although senior sources told the Guardian that trade would only come onto the agenda in December. “We believe in miracles,” they added, “we are not hallucinating”.
Theresa May tried to use the summit to press her case on Brexit, although EU leaders did not want to talk about it over dinner last night. Their reluctance to do so won’t help them if they seriously dream of one day persuading Britain to rejoin the bloc, I suggest online. The Prime Minister did catch up with Angela Merkel this morning, using her quick chat to urge the Chancellor to back a “time-limited” transition period.
Mrs May now has to prepare for the Conservatives’ annual conference in Manchester, which kicks off this weekend. She remains under pressure, with one cabinet minister – David Gauke – challenging her flagship migration cap by telling the Standard that it would be a “ mistake” to enforce it rigidly. Her party has also slipped behind Labour in the polls, but there is a way she can bounce back, according to our data team: getting Brexit right. Her ally Damian Green has told the Spectator that she would fight the next general election, and could have a “ big record of achievement” to boast of in 2022. If she gets that far, and goes on to win back the Tories’ majority, her political recovery would have been truly miraculous.
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