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Italy PM to meet EU Brexit negotiator ahead of Theresa May’s speech in Florence

Italy's prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, will meet the EU's top Brexit negotiator ahead of Theresa May's speech in Florence, further details of which were announced on Thursday.

Italy PM to meet EU Brexit negotiator ahead of Theresa May's speech in Florence
Theresa May will hold her speech in Santa Maria Novella, pictured. Photo: Roger W/Flickr

Gentiloni will meet with Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier at 4pm on Thursday afternoon, according to a government statement which said the meeting would take place at Palazzo Chigi, the prime minister's official residence,

It comes a day before May's big speech, which will take place in Santa Maria Novella, according to a statement from the organization responsible for preservation of the site.

READ ALSO: Why Florence is the perfect setting for Theresa May's big Brexit speech

The 13th-century church is the oldest of Florence's major churches, and located conveniently close to the city's train station. It is famed for its cloisters and chapels which house elaborate frescoes.

May's speech is set to take place at around 3.30 pm, and the prime minister does not have other official engagements while in Italy.

Asked about the choice of venue when the speech was announced one week ago, May's spokesperson said: “The prime minister wanted to give a speech on the UK's future relationship with Europe in its historical heart.

“The UK has had deep cultural and economic ties spanning centuries with Florence, a city known for its historical trading power.”

Florentine mayor Dario Nardella said the choice was a recognition of the city's “important historical role”.

However, observers have pointed to other parallels between Florence's history and the future Britain could face post-Brexit. 

TheCityUK, a British finance lobby, warned in a statement that “Florence was once a powerful European financial centre, but lost its position as other better-connected centres arose elsewhere” and said it did not want to see UK face the same fate.

Global banks have already begun moving their headquarters and many jobs from London to other European cities, with Frankfurt emerging as one of the big winners

Florence is also known as the hometown of the Guelphs and Ghibellines, arguably the first political parties in Europe, as well as of poet Dante and former prime minister Matteo Renzi.

POLITICS

Italy’s Meloni in Libya to discuss energy, migration

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni arrived Saturday in the Libyan capital Tripoli for talks on energy as well as the thorny issue of migration, Libyan state media said.

Italy's Meloni in Libya to discuss energy, migration

Meloni’s trip — her second to a North African country this week — is the first by a European leader to war-battered Libya since her predecessor Mario Draghi’s visit in April 2021.

State television said the Italian premier was received by Abdelhamid Dbeibah, who heads the Tripoli-based, UN brokered Government of National Unity which is contested by a rival administration in the east.

Libya and its former colonial power Italy are key trade partners, particularly in energy, where Italian giant Eni plays a major role in tapping into Africa’s largest known oil reserves.

Meloni was accompanied by Eni chief Claudio Descalzi, who is expected to sign a deal with Libya’s National Oil Company to develop two Libyan offshore gas fields.

Eni will invest $8 million in the two fields, NOC chief Farhat Bengdara said in televised remarks this week, adding they are expected to produce 850 million cubic metres of gas.

Meloni visited Algeria on Monday seeking supply deals from Africa’s top gas exporter to help reduce reliance on Russia after it invaded Ukraine last year.

During her trip to Libya, she is also expected to discuss the issue of migration amid rising numbers of irregular migrants from Libya to Italy.

Libya has been wracked by years of conflict and division since a NATO-backed revolt toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The country is a conduit for thousands of people each year fleeing conflict and poverty across Africa, seeking refuge across the Mediterranean in Europe.

Meloni’s far-right government took office in October, vowing to stop migrant landings in Italy, which reached more than 105,000 in 2022.

The central Mediterranean route is considered the world’s most treacherous, according to the International Organization for Migration, which estimated that 1,377 migrants had disappeared on that route last year.

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