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UK Government to give up EU presidency, focusing on Brexit



Britain will give up its planned presidency of the European Council, due to start in July 2017, to focus on negotiating the country's exit from the European Union a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday.

The decision, reached in a phone call between May and EU Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday evening, reflects the scale of the task facing Britain as it seeks to negotiate a new relationship with the EU after a June 23 public vote to leave.




"The Prime Minister suggested that the UK should relinquish the rotating Presidency of the Council, currently scheduled for the second half of 2017, noting that we would be prioritising the negotiations to leave the European Union," the spokeswoman said.

"The Prime Minister explained that we will need to carefully prepare for the negotiations to leave the EU before triggering Article 50," she said, referring to the formal legal process for leaving the bloc.

"Donald Tusk reassured the Prime Minister that he will help to make this process happen as smoothly as possible."

A spokesman for Tusk said there had been no decision yet on who would take up the vacant slot, and that discussions on the issue would begin immediately between ambassadors.

The presidency is currently held by Slovakia and is due to be handed over to Malta for the first half of 2017. Estonia was due to follow the British presidency.

Possible solutions could be to extend Malta and Estonia's terms by three months to cover the gap or for Belgium to step in for the six months.


The Prime Minister will embark on her first visit overseas today, building relationships with partners across Europe as the UK prepares to negotiate its successful exit from the European Union.

Theresa May will travel to Berlin today for a working dinner with Chancellor Merkel followed by bilateral talks in Paris on Thursday evening with President Hollande.

During both visits, the Prime Minister is expected to hold one-to-one talks with her fellow leaders, starting to establish the personal relations that will pave the way for open and frank discussions in the months ahead as the UK negotiates to leave the European Union.

She is expected to repeat a point she made in early phone calls with these leaders - that it will take some time to prepare for those negotiations as the UK government consults with the devolved administrations and different industry sectors to determine what our objectives should be for that negotiation.

The Prime Minister spoke first to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel who phoned from Kyrgyzstan. The German Chancellor congratulated the Prime Minister on her appointment, invited the Prime Minister to visit and said that she hoped to see her at the G20 in September.

The Prime Minister will underline to both leaders the importance that the United Kingdom attaches to these relationships and make clear that we will want to sustain, and indeed strengthen, these partnerships once we have left the European Union. In that context, the bilateral discussions are expected to focus on the economic and trading relationship between our countries and the close-co-operation on global challenges such as the migration crisis and the threat from Islamist terrorism.

Speaking ahead of travelling to Berlin, the Prime Minister said:
I am determined that Britain will make a success of leaving the European Union and that’s why I have decided to visit Berlin and Paris so soon after taking office. These visits will be an opportunity to forge a strong working relationship that we can build upon and which I hope to develop with more leaders across the European Union in the weeks and months ahead.
I do not underestimate the challenge of negotiating our exit from the European Union and I firmly believe that being able to talk frankly and openly about the issues we face will be an important part of a successful negotiation.

I also want to deliver a very clear message about the importance we attach to our bilateral relationship with our European partners, not just now but also when we have left the European Union. These relationships have been vital in the past and they will be vital in the future as we continue to work together to keep our people safe and to support economic growth that benefits people across our countries.

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