David Davis will travel to Paris on Monday for Brexit talks after French President Emmanuel Macron told London it needed to put more money on the table to unlock trade negotiations in December.
Government sources told Sky News the dinner between the Brexit secretary and French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had been in the diary for “several weeks”.
“It’s part of an ongoing engagement programme across the EU with key opinion formers,” said one government figure. “It’s not a negotiation round.”
The meeting comes after European Council President Donald Tusk said last week there had been insufficient progress over the first phase of Brexit negotiations – chiefly on the UK’s divorce bill – to begin trade talks.
While Mr Tusk said he remains hopeful that the two sides will be able to move to the second phase in December, President Macron has been more downbeat as he steps up the pressure on Theresa May.
President Macron warned after the summit that “much work needs to be done” on the matter of the divorce settlement as he suggested the Brexit bill could top €40bn, describing indications of a €20bn offer from Britain as “not halfway there”.
Mrs May has repeatedly dodged questions on how much more money, beyond the €20bn hinted at in her Florence speech, Britain might be willing to pay to push the talks along as the two sides enter a critical few weeks to try and break the deadlock.
Both Britain and the EU27 agreed to sequencing Brexit talks shortly after Mrs May triggered Article 50 and began formal negotiations six months ago.
Phase one of talks centres around the issues of citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the divorce bill.
Sufficient progress must be made on these areas before the two sides move onto the matter of trade talks.
Mrs May is likely to have to make concessions on the money if she wants to move onto the next phase in December.
But she will face pressure back home, with some Brexiteers resistant to handing over more money.
Reports suggest Mr Davis will step up preparations for a “no deal” Brexit in the coming weeks in a shift in negotiating strategy to show European colleagues that Britain is ready to leave without a trade agreement.