Brexit: Theresa May will by-pass Brussels and press EU leaders on Chequers proposals

The prime minister spokesman said a meeting in Austria later this month will provide a further opportunity 

Brexit: Michel Barnier rules out Theresa May's Chequers customs plan

Theresa May will by-pass Brussels negotiators and intensify her efforts to press EU member state leaders into doing a Brexit deal at a crucial meeting later this month.

The prime minister will use the mini-summit to convince leaders that her Chequers proposals constitute a viable route to sealing a full Brexit agreement later in the year.

Downing Street also passed a briefing paper to ministers rebuffing claims by Boris Johnson that the PM’s proposals are doomed.

It comes just days after the European Commission’s lead negotiator Michel Barnier said explicitly in public that he is “strongly” opposed to her plans.

Mr Barnier’s outspoken attack has since been used by different wings of the Tory party to push the prime minister to ditch her plans.

Asked about his comments, Theresa May’ spokesman said: “Michel Barnier has said a significant number of things in recent weeks.”

He went on: “The negotiations are taking place with the Commission, we have always respected that fact. But equally this is a decision which at the end of the process will be taken at political level by the European Council.

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“So you can obviously expect a continued and stronger engagement with fellow European countries.”

On 20 September Ms May will attend a meeting of EU leaders, hosted in Slazburg, Austria, where new leader Sebastian Kurz has made helpful noises for the British PM – talking of his desire to avoid hard Brexit and extend the Trticle 50 period if needs be.

This is a decision which at the end of the process will be taken at political level by the European Council

Theresa May’s official spokesman

The PM’s spokesman added: “You have seen a lot of personal involvement from the prime minister in terms of the meetings she has held with her various counterparts and at the various summits which we have been attending recently.

“We have Salzburg and that will obviously be an opportunity for further engagement between the PM and the 27 [leaders of EU member states].”

Mr Barnier rejected key elements of Britain’s new trade proposals on Thursday after he and Brexit secretary Dominic Raab held talks.

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In an interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Mr Barnier said Ms May’s plans “would be the end of the single market and the European project”.

He went on: “The British have a choice – they could stay in the single market, like Norway, which is also not a member of the EU – but they would then have to take over all the associated rules and contributions to European solidarity. It is your choice.”

Mr Barnier’s views were used as a springboard by ex-foreign secretary Mr Johnson on Monday, to claim Ms May’s plans would be rejected by the EU.

Hours later Downing Street dismissed Mr Johnson’s plans and on Tuesday officials handed the briefing paper to ministers setting out how EU leaders had made some positive comments.

Those listed include German chancellor Angela Merkel saying: “We have made progress ... it’s a good thing that we have proposals on the table.”

It also quotes Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar saying: “The Chequers statement is welcome. I believe it can input into the talks of the future relationship.”

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