No one from European Commission will be attending Theresa May's big speech tomorrow

 
Catherine Neilan
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Theresa May Visits The West Midlands
Who will Theresa May be addressing? (Source: Getty)

No one from the European Commission (EC) will be attending Theresa May's major Brexit speech in Florence tomorrow.

A spokesman for the EU told City A.M. that there would be no official representation from the EC, including chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his team.

He was "not aware" of being sent an invitation, adding: "I don't know if we would go anyway."

The spokesman noted that London was closer to Brussels than Florence.

Read More: Barnier will be listening "attentively and constructively - but not in person

The lack of invitation is a strong indication that May will seek to speak directly to the leaders of the EU27 member states, rather than via the EC's intermediaries, which have so far been viewed from London as hindering trade talks.

The Prime Minister has just spent more than two hours briefing cabinet ministers, some of whom will be attending the event, about the contents of the speech so she can receive their backing before going public.

She will also brief European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker over the phone this afternoon.

It is thought the speech will stop short of an outright commitment to pay a divorce bill, although May is expected to concede that no member state will lose out as a result of the UK's departure from the EU.

She is also expected to outline her vision for a two year transition period, and a refusal to accept an "off the shelf" trade deal, preferring a bespoke option. However, Barnier and colleagues have said that will not be acceptable to the remaining members of the European Union.

Number 10 has so far declined to comment on the contents of the speech or who will make up the audience.

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