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Theresa May to make 'open and generous' Brexit offer

Mark Dorman
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Theresa May to make 'open and generous' Brexit offer

Theresa May to make 'open and generous' Brexit offer
Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond leave the cabinet meeting at No.10 (Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

Theresa May will use a major speech in Florence on Friday to make an “open and generous” Brexit offer to her European counterparts, it has been revealed.

One minister has told the BBC the offer might include a guarantee that no EU country would lose out as a result of the UK leaving.

It was reported yesterday that May would quote a figure of €20bn towards an interim settlement of the problematic European Union divorce.

No.10 has said no figure will be mentioned during the speech in Italy.

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The prime minister chaired a marathon cabinet meeting on Thursday morning where she will have attempted to get all her colleagues on board for her Brexit vision following a series of damaging rows over the past week.

Back seat driver? Boris Johnson sits behind Theresa May at the United Nations earlier this week (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The cabinet meeting lasted for about two-and-a-half hours – well over the time it usually meets for.

In fact, the last time such a lengthy meeting was held was in 1992, when the cabinet assembled in the wake of the UK crashing out of the European exchange rate mechanism.

That meeting went on for 2 hours and 45 minutes.

MORE: Theresa May ‘to offer €20bn Brexit divorce bill sweetener’

Ministers put on a united front as they left Downing Street at lunchtime. Pointedly, foreign secretary Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, were seen leaving together.

The pair sit at opposite ends of the Brexit debate – with Johnson said to have angered the prime minister with his 4,000 word roadmap to a “glorious Brexit” article at the weekend.

He was accused of backseat driving the negotiations – but Mrs May publicly at least shrugged off the furore with “Boris is Boris”.

The issue of the divorce bill has been a major block to the talks. The EU is said to be demanding a commitment from the UK of above €60bn before formal trade talks can begin.

Both Brexit secretary David Davis and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier have clashed repeatedly on the topic, as well as the future of the Irish border and citizens’ rights.

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As the build-up to the prime minister’s speech mounts, speculation is rife that she might try to bypass Barnier by appealing directly to leaders of the other 27 EU nations.

Speaking in New York, where she addressed the United Nations General Assembly, she recognised Barnier’s role, but added: “The decision will always be one that will be taken by the leaders.”