Donald Tusk has confirmed the European Council will not agree to unlock trade talks this Friday - but is recommending the second best thing.
The President of the European Council today said he would use the meeting of the EU leaders to recommend they begin "internal preparations for talks on the transition and the future relationship".
Tusk, who has made no secret of his view that sufficient progress has not yet been made, added: "While progress is not sufficient, there is promising progress, especially following the speech by Prime Minister May in Florence."
His comments come as Theresa May gears up for her last opportunity to press her counterparts to break the Brexit impasse. This week she has made a flurry of calls to leaders of Ireland, France, Germany and others, as well as travelling to Brussels for a hastily-scheduled dinner with Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier, which resulted in the agreement that talks should "accelerate".
However, she is being thwarted by her own colleagues, with the EU Withdrawal Bill now not expected to return to the Commons for the next stage of scrutiny until after next month's autumn recess at the earliest, amid fears rebel Tory MPs will stop it in its tracks.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that Germany is reportedly working on proposals for a “comprehensive free-trade accord” with the British government.
Bloomberg reports that the Foreign Ministry in Berlin has drafted a four-page document, the most detailed German position yet, for “future formal negotiations” about the UK’s relationship with Europe.
The document proposes a broad partnership that includes “at a minimum” the fields of foreign and security policy; fighting terrorism; cooperation on criminal justice; agriculture and fisheries; energy; transport, and especially air transport; research and digital issues.