Prime Minister Theresa May is set to travel to Brussels to address a group of leading MEPs as part of the government’s final push to secure a Brexit deal.
The visit has been agreed in principle and European Parliament and UK government officials are in talks to agree a date for May’s visit, Yahoo Finance UK has learned.
The visit is important because the European Parliament has a veto on the final Brexit deal, which is being held up by disagreements over the future of trade and the Irish border.
Given any deal is supposed to be signed-off by the European Council on October 18, it should take place within the next six weeks.
May won’t address a full plenary meeting of all MEPs but a smaller group that includes UKIP’s Nigel Farage and Guy Verhofstadt, the Parliament’s Brexit coordinator.
European Parliament president Antonio Tajani has invited all 28 EU heads of government to address its 751 members.
French president Emmanuel Macron is among eight leaders who have already taken up the opportunity and German chancellor Angela Merkel is set to address the Parliament in November.
Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown addressed the European Parliament during their time as prime minister and David Cameron had agreed to do so before being forced out of office by the Brexit vote.
But, in a move described as an “own goal”, May declined Tajani’s invitation to speak to a full plenary meeting.
She did though agree to attend a meeting of the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents, which consists of Tajani and 11 more MEPs who lead political groups.
The meeting was due to take place last November but was cancelled after a number of the MEPs said they weren’t available to attend.
May “expressed her readiness” to find new date for the meeting when she met Verhofstaft at Downing Street in March, according to minutes of the Conference of Presidents.
Yahoo Finance UK submitted a freedom of information designed to obtain details of the new arrangements.
In response, a Cabinet Office official told us: “Discussions are being held with the European Parliament by the UK Representation to the EU Brussels to establish an opportunity for the Prime Minister to address the Conference of Presidents.”
The Conference of Presidents only has four meetings scheduled before October’s European Council, although an extraordinary meeting could be arranged.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg also attended a meeting of the Conference of Presidents in May after refusing to speak to a wider number of MEPs.
The meeting, which was broadcast live online, descended into farce because of the chaotic system of questioning chosen.
European Parliament officials said at the time they would change the format for a future meeting.
May will have at least one friendly face around the table – Conservative MEP Syed Kamall is a member of the Conference of Presidents on account of being co-leader of the Parliament’s European Conservatives and Reformists group.
Other members include Manfred Weber, a centre-right German MEP talked about a future European Commission president, German communist MEP Gabriele Zimmer and French National Front MEP Nicholas Bay.