Brexit negotiations have reached a critical point as UK Prime Minister Theresa May heads to Brussels for a crunch meeting with European Union leaders.
The meeting is seen as a last-ditch attempt to resolve the deadlock in talks over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, but the two sides have yet to agree on key issues such as the Irish border, citizens’ rights and the UK’s financial obligations.
Mrs May is expected to outline the UK’s position on these issues in a speech in Brussels later on Thursday.
The UK’s Brexit Secretary, David Davis, said the meeting was “an important milestone in the process”.
“We’ve made real progress in the last few weeks and I’m sure we can make further progress in the coming days,” he said.
But EU leaders have warned that the UK must come up with “realistic” proposals if it wants to move the talks forward.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said it was “time to turn good intentions into a legal text”.
The meeting in Brussels comes as the UK government prepares to publish its Brexit White Paper, setting out in detail its plans for the future relationship with the EU.
Mrs May has said she wants the UK to maintain “the closest possible economic relationship” with the EU after Brexit.
But the EU has said it will not accept any “cherry-picking” of the single market.
The UK is hoping to reach an agreement on the terms of its withdrawal by October, so that it can be ratified by the UK and EU parliaments before Brexit day.
But time is running out and Mrs May is under pressure to break the deadlock.
If she fails to do so, the UK could face a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, with all the economic and political uncertainty that would bring.