Theresa May to meet Italian PM on Brexit diplomacy tour


Prime Minister Theresa May is continuing her whirlwind diplomacy tour of Europe with a visit to Italy.

She will meet prime minister Matio Renzi in Rome on Wednesday as part of her drive to engage with European leaders on Brexit.

This will be followed on Thursday by a trip to Slovakia and Poland, where she will hold discussions with prime ministers Robert Fico and Beata Szydlo.

It follows her talks with the leaders of Germany and France last week and Ireland on Tuesday. 

A Number 10 spokesman said Mrs May wanted an early visit to Italy after becoming PM earlier this month, because of the close relations it has with the UK.

Thursday's trip to eastern Europe may prove more awkward as Slovakia and Poland are among the EU states most insistent on maintaining free movement of labour and have also voiced concern about the rights of their nationals currently in the UK.

The countries are part of the Visegrad Four group within the EU which has called for the pace of integration to be slowed in the wake of Brexit.

Slovakia currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Council and will host a summit of the remaining 27 states in Britain's absence in September to discuss their approach to the UK's planned withdrawal.

Following Downing Street talks on Tuesday, Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny said London and Dublin were agreed that there would be no return to a "hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic, following the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

Mr Kenny said he and Mrs May were both against creating a post-Brexit string of customs posts on the island of Ireland.

The newly-appointed Mrs May also received "congratulatory" phone calls from the leaders of New Zealand, Japan, India, Pakistan and Jordan on Tuesday, a Number 10 spokeswoman said.

She said: "A common theme that emerged in the phone calls from Prime Minister Key of New Zealand, Prime Minister Abe of Japan, Prime Minister Modi of India, Prime Minister Sharif of Pakistan and King Abdullah of Jordan is the importance that they all attach to their partnership with the United Kingdom and their wish to further strengthen co-operation, whether on trade, security or across the board."