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EU leaders aim to let Theresa May down gently over trade talks

PM’s counterparts at summit will refuse to widen Brexit negotiations but talk up her efforts for fear of weakening her further

European Union leaders at a crunch summit dinner are set to rebuff Theresa May’s appeal for trade talks while they seek to publicly talk up her efforts in the Brexit negotiations because they fear that the prime minister’s domestic weakness will leave her unable to make vital concessions on Britain’s divorce bill.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, will lead European leaders in Brussels on Thursday in seeking to put the best gloss on their refusal to widen the talks, according to diplomatic sources. “There are ways to say it kindly and encouragingly or less kindly and less encouraging,” said one senior EU diplomat.

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