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EU chief says start of Brexit talks "likely" early next year

EU chief says start of Brexit talks

Other Eurosceptic parties are making gains across the continent, especially in France and Germany.

Whatever priorities are identified, the leaders are expected to work on them at their upcoming regular summits in Brussels, but also during another informal summit in Malta before their Rome meeting.

EU President Donald Tusk had warned on the summit eve that they must "have a sober and brutally honest assessment of the situation". He said the bloc wanted to "correct the past mistakes and move on with new solutions". Some defence measures could be signed off at a full European Union summit with Britain in December.

Despite this, the Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has again insisted that no quarter can be given to Britain over the issue of free movement of workers.

Britain has always opposed a joint EU military for fear it would overlap with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, but the remaining members hope that boosting defence cooperation will give the union something to rally around.

The Slovak president said European Union leaders should clearly determine the main measures to be developed in areas of joint interest "such as security, protection and the supervision of Schengen area borders" and a precise timetable for implementing them.

"We are sticking to that position and this is not a game between prime ministers leaving and prime ministers remaining, this is about people in Europe".

GETTYSir Michael Fallon vowed to block the controversial proposals
GETTYSir Michael Fallon vowed to block the controversial proposals

'All on the same boat'?

The leaders, who were greeted by soldiers in bright blue uniforms and ceremonial plumes, will hold talks at the towering castle before having lunch during a river cruise on the Danube.

Tusk said the Prime Minister told him during talks at No 10 it was "quite likely" she would be ready to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to leave the European Union "maybe in January, maybe in February" 2017.

"One understands more and more why Britain was just no good at being in the EU: It can't defend itself yet will block plans for European army", Duff said on Twitter. "We are all on the same boat, literally".

But EU countries are deeply divided on the migration issue, with the central and eastern European countries deeply opposed to taking quotas of refugees as demanded by the EU, and blaming Germany for the migrant crisis.

Pressure is mounting among several prominent member states, after Luxembourg's foreign minister attacked Hungary, saying they should be thrown out for their treatment of asylum seekers. Those differences came to a fore last week when Luxembourg's foreign minister called for Hungary to be kicked out of the European Union for its authoritarian stance towards migrants who have arrived on the continent, many fleeing war in the Middle East.

In particular, leaders tried to find common ground on the best way to deal with the numbers of migrants coming into Europe, and how to deal with the after effects of several years of economic crisis.

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