Theresa May will travel to Florence next week to make a major speech on Brexit, in a bid to kickstart stalled talks with the EU.
She is expected to give European dignitaries her view on the state of Brexit talks and “assist” her negotiating team in nudging discussion on to critical future trading relations.
Government sources told The Independent the speech on September 22 should be seen as a “curtain raiser” to both the next round of Brexit talks and the October meeting of Europe’s national leaders, which will decide if “sufficient progress” has been made to begin trade talks.
The Prime Minister’s intervention in the historic Italian merchant city comes after the last round of talks ended with the EU, claiming Britain was “backtracking” on commitments and as Ms May’s negotiators continue to push for talks to advance on from withdrawal issues – inducing the settling of the UK’s financial obligations.
A source said: “The speech will be a necessary curtain raiser to the next round of negotiations, and also looking ahead to the Council of Ministers in October.
“She wants to help inform the process in terms of the future relationship, and there’s a hope it will assist in allowing the Council of Ministers to eventually agree that sufficient process has been made.”
The Independent understands that the Government is prepared for the October council to decide sufficient progress has not been made, given several EU figures have indicated that might be the case.
However, the feeling in London is that such a decision will not be “a major crisis”, as long as there are signs headway can be made imminently.
British negotiators have indicated they believe the mandate given to the EU team by member states is too narrow and preventing progress, and are pushing for European national leaders to broaden it.
The source added: “The Prime Minister knows she has to let the negotiators get on with their part of the job, but as the head of our government she has a job to do in trying to shape the course of events.
“Her speech will be speaking to the Commission, but also to the EU27. The EU27 are understandably leaving the detail to the Commission, but it’s important to them to ensure there is a sensible outcome rather than a messy fallout.”
The fourth round of Brexit talks was also due to have taken place next week, but was shifted back. EU sources suggested the delay was specifically so Ms May could make her speech.
The timing is also significant because it comes two days before the German elections, in which Chancellor of 12 years Angela Merkel is expected to win another term, consolidating her influence over the Brexit process.
Details of exactly who has been invited to the speech, and the venue, are yet to emerge, but the setting was chosen for its historic significance.
Florence dates back to ancient times and grew into a thriving economic powerhouse on the back of commercial activity, which saw traders from across Europe and Asia passing through.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The PM wanted to give a speech on the UK’s future relationship with Europe from its historical heart.
“The UK has had deep cultural and economic ties spanning centuries with Florence, a city known for its historical trading power.
“As the UK leaves the EU we will retain those close ties. As the Prime Minister has said on many occasions, we are leaving the EU but not Europe.”