EU leaders to discuss Brexit without Theresa May

No chance of an Ireland-UK bilateral deal, which would be seen as a "rogue move"...

EU leaders to discuss Brexit without Theresa May

File photo of British Prime Minister Theresa May | Image: Matt Cardy PA Wire/PA Images

British Prime Minister Theresa May will be absent from a meeting of the European Union's 27 other leaders, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, later today as they thrash out their plans for handling Brexit talks.

The discussion, which will take place in Brussels after May has left a summit meeting of all EU leaders, will decide how the bloc will organise itself for the talks which will follow the triggering of Article 50.

According to Newstalk's foreign affairs correspondent Shona Murray, there will be "absolutely" no chance that Ireland will attempt to secure a bilateral agreement with the UK on the fringes of the summit meeting, despite a recent House of Lords report that Ireland is going to be in a much worse position than the UK post-Brexit.

She said:

"The Irish government in Brussels are very much at pains to ensure with their EU counterparts that Ireland will negotiate with the UK when it triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty as a member of the EU...

"The point is that Ireland is a member of the EU and there's no way that the Government could go away and write a bilateral deal with the UK, it would be seen as a rogue move..."

A Downing Street spokeswoman said the talks showed that Brussels is "facing up to the reality that the UK is leaving the EU" and that May would trigger Article 50 by the end of March.

She said: "That means they are going to need to know how they are going to handle the process where they have got to work out the position of 27."

Under a draft deal to be discussed by the 27, the European Commission is to be appointed as the chief negotiator with the UK for Brexit talks.

The move appears to be designed to prevent British negotiators from approaching EU member states individually and to bar the UK from "discussions of decisions concerning it".

MEPs claimed the plan sidelined Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's Brexit negotiator.

Verhofstadt said: "If the government leaders do not take the European Parliament's role seriously, we'll negotiate directly with the British. If that's what they want, they'll get it."

May will hold talks with the outgoing president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz on the margins of the Brussels summit.

She will also meet Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite – meaning that she will have held talks with leaders from all EU countries apart from Austria and Bulgaria by the time the summit starts.

Additional reporting by IRN