Theresa May will make an unannounced trip to Brussels today to meet the key players negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU.
Sky News understands the Prime Minister will accompany Brexit Secretary David Davis on the trip, which is expected to include dinner with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, and Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president.
Government sources say the meeting has been planned for “a while” and therefore “it would be wrong to say it represents any view on negotiations”.
However, it follows a marked ramp-up in high level discussions between the Prime Minister and fellow leaders, including telephone conversations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Council president Donald Tusk.
It comes as the remaining 27 EU countries prepare for “internal preparatory discussions” as to the European Union’s future trading relationship with the UK after Brexit.
This was seen in Whitehall as a softening of its stance on “sequencing” after refusing to move on to trade until sufficient progress was made on the so-called “separation issues”: the divorce bill, the Irish border and EU citizens’ rights.
After the latest round of talks Mr Barnier said there was a “very disturbing deadlock” on the divorce bill.
It is believed the Prime Minister will return to London before Thursday’s council meeting to have more bilateral discussions with EU leaders.
A European Commission source told Sky News that Mrs May, Mr Davis, Mr Barnier and Mr Juncker will meet at a “working dinner” where they “will discuss European and geopolitical issues of common interest and prepare the European Council agenda and the long term G7/G20 agenda”.
While Number 10 sources say such “private meetings are standard practice”, the trip was only revealed to journalists on Sunday evening.
Number 10 has taken a more hands-on role in the negotiation process since the former permanent secretary of the Department of Exiting the European Union, Olly Robbins, moved to Downing Street to coordinate the talks.
It follows reports that Mr Robbins and Mr Davis had repeatedly clashed over strategy at the department.