David Davis to resume Brexit talks as PM hosts first business council meeting

Updated: 

Brexit Secretary David Davis returns to Brussels on Thursday to meet European Commission chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and conclude four days of talks on Britain's exit from the European Union.

The negotiations have focused on so-called "phase one" issues of separation - including a financial settlement, citizens' rights, the Irish border and Britain's position in relation to Europe's civil nuclear regulator, Euratom.

It is understood that both sides have used the talks to scope out each other's positions, with the so-called "divorce bill" emerging as a key battleground, and final agreement on any of the issues is unlikely.

Both sides are hoping to reach an agreement on the method of calculating the financial settlement by October's European Council summit so Mr Barnier can recommend to EU leaders that "phase two" negotiations can begin on Britain's future trading relationship with Brussels.

Mr Davis is expected to hold a press conference alongside Mr Barnier, although it has not been confirmed by either side.

His visit will come as Theresa May hosts the first meeting of a new business council intended to increase the involvement of leading firms in the Government's Brexit strategy.

Chancellor Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark will also be at the Downing Street meeting with a number of company bosses, including Tesco's Dave Lewis, Sir Roger Carr from BAE Systems and National Grid chief executive officer John Pettigrew.

A Number 10 spokesman said: "We have said we wish to consult widely on Brexit and also on the economy and industrial strategy. This will provide a direct link to business on that Brexit strategy as well as the other, wider issues.

"We want a regular dedicated forum to provide high-level engagement between the Government and key business interests."

There will be a "changing cast list" for future meetings because the Government wants to hear a "broad cross-section" of views, he said.

Meanwhile, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is using a visit to Switzerland to urge a rejection of post-Brexit protectionism, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is in Japan for trade talks.