After months of Brexit talks that have made little progress and deepened rifts in her party, British Prime Minister Theresa May will try this week to put the negotiations on track and reassert her authority.
In a speech in the Italian city of Florence, May will set out on Friday her vision for future ties with the European Union and try to fill an apparent policy vacuum that has left her Brexit team adopting what Brussels regards as wrecking tactics in the talks on unravelling four decades of union.
The 60-year-old leader has deliberately chosen an EU city to deliver the speech so that she can speak directly to the other 27 nations in the bloc, but has her work cut out in seizing back the initiative.
May has been largely quiet on Brexit since her Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority in a June election that she need not have called, saying little beyond expressing her support for “a deep and special partnership” with the bloc once Britain leaves in March 2019.
But days before the speech, foreign minister Boris Johnson laid out his own Brexit vision, challenging her more cautious approach and exposing the fault lines in her party and government.
EU negotiators are also frustrated with what they see as Britain’s policy drift. At talks in August, British officials spent almost three hours picking holes in the legal basis for the bill that the EU expects London to pay to leave.
Sources familiar with the presentation — so detailed it stretched for 11 pages and was illustrated with 23 slides — called it a show of legal muscle. But, as Brexit minister David Davis said, the meeting was even “tetchier than the one before”.
“The reason lawyers gave a two-and-a-half hour presentation is because no government minister had made a decision on policy,” said Andrew Hood, who was a legal adviser to former prime minister David Cameron and still has contact with lawyers in...