Theresa May is meeting Angela Merkel ally Manfred Weber this week - but he's already said Brexit deal unlikely this year

 
Catherine Neilan
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Weber said it doesn't look like we will be entering the second phase" this year (Source: Getty)

Theresa May is meeting a key ally of Angela Merkel this week, as the Prime Minister attempts to break the impasse on Brexit ahead of December's crunch meeting with EU leaders.

Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People's Party (EPP), told reporters in a press conference in Strasbourg that May had requested the meeting, due to take place at Downing Street tomorrow.

“She knows the negotiations are in a decisive phase,” said Weber, adding that "it doesn't look like we will be entering the second phase" this side of Christmas.

“But the clock is ticking,” he added. “In spring 2019 Britain will leave. We need to warn the British government and call on them to put proposals on the table.”

The Prime Minister's spokesman confirmed the meeting was taking place as part of “broad engagement that we’ve been looking to have for a little while”. He said it would be “a opportunity to update on the Brexit process and to discuss other broader European issues.”

But while Number 10 continues to press the line that it is confident of the momentum created by May's Florence speech, MPs are increasingly expecting the EU27 to insist "sufficient progress" has still not been made by the European Council summit on 14 and 15 December. May will face a committee grilling on 20 December from a number of pro-Remain Tories and opposition MPs.

"People here are accepting it won't happen," one backbencher told City A.M.

This afternoon lawmakers begin the first of eight days' debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill, which has received almost 500 amendments since it passed its second reading by the skin of its teeth.

The government attempted to win over some of the Tory rebels by revealing a second bill, which will put the details of any Brexit deal to parliament, but this has done little to disrupt the growing dissent.

When asked what they made of the new bill, one MP simply said: "Not much."

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