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May’s Brussels dinner confirms no trade or transition talks until New Year

Theresa May receives a warm embrace from Jean-Claude Juncker. Credit: PA

Tonight’s dinner between May, Davis, Juncker and Barnier was confirmation - if such were needed - that talks on future trade and security deals between Britain and the EU will not start until the New Year at the earliest.

And nor will negotiations begin till then (if at all) on a so-called two-year transition arrangement after March 30, 2019, during which businesses and people could gradually prepare for full separation from the EU.

Or to put it another way, in respect of Brexit, the meeting of EU government heads or EU council at the end of this week will be largely ceremonial and pointless.

And it will therefore be the EU council meeting in December that will be make or break for whether the Prime Minister has a cat’s chance in hell of negotiating a future trade and others deals - or whether we are set for the starkest form of rupture with the EU in just 18 months, a break that severs our mutual ties and does not replace any of them.