Theresa May is heading to Brussels for talks with European Union chiefs in a push to break the deadlock over Brexit.
The Prime Minister will meet chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker just days after they said exit negotiations were deadlocked.
Downing Street sources insisted the meeting had “been in the diary for weeks” but the announcement caused surprise in Westminster and comes after last week’s negotiations ended with little movement.
Mrs May, who will be joined by Brexit Secretary David Davis, is expected to have discussions with European counterparts over the coming days ahead of a meeting of all EU leaders later in the week.
No 10 said the PM and German chancellor Angela Merkel had agreed the “importance of continued constructive progress” in the UK’s exit negotiations in an early morning telephone call on Sunday.
Over dinner, the PM will hope to end the stalemate over the divorce settlement that is stopping post-Brexit trading relationship being discussed.
After the fifth round of discussions were brought to a close last week, Mr Barnier said he would not recommend that talks moved on to the next stage when he attends the European Council on Thursday.
He said the negotiations had ended without making any “great steps forward” and there was “disturbing deadlock” over the size of Britain’s divorce bill.
Mr Juncker said the Brexit process will take “longer than we initially thought”, blaming delays on Britain’s failure to settle its financial obligations.
The Government wants EU leaders to expand Mr Barnier’s negotiating mandate to allow some headway to be made.
Former Brexit minister David Jones, however, said Britain should suspend negotiations until the EU is prepared to talk “sensibly about money” as well as future trade terms.
But Labour’s John McDonnell suggested Tory MPs are in talks with Labour to prevent Britain leaving the bloc without a deal.
The shadow chancellor said Parliament can stop the Government taking the country out of the block without an agreement in place and claimed discussions are “going right the way across the House”.
But Chris Grayling said the Labour MP was talking “nonsense” and accused him of threatening to create a chaotic Brexit.
The Transport Secretary insisted Britain will “succeed whatever happens” but claimed farmers would “grow more here” if the UK left without a deal.