Theresa May has been urged to demand Brexit talks are held in 'neutral' Switzerland
Labour MP Kate Hoey has expressed fears holding the UK’s divorce negotiations in the Belgian city will hand a “home ground” advantage to the European Union as the Prime Minister seeks to strike a departure deal.
Mrs May has promised to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of next month, with the Prime Minister likely to formally notify the EU of Britain’s intent to leave in a letter to European Council president Donald Tusk.
Vauxhall MP Ms Hoey, a leading Brexit campaigner, is calling for Mrs May to use her Article 50 letter to highlight how the Lisbon Treaty makes no mention of where a member state’s departure negotiations should take place.
The former minister claimed “hostile remarks” already made by leading EU officials suggested the Prime Minister would be entering an unfriendly environment in Brussels, home to the bloc's institutions.
The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is poised to hit Mrs May with a demand for a £50billion exit fee at the beginning of Article 50 talks.
Ms Hoey told Express.co.uk: “The Lisbon Treaty makes no mention of where the negotiations on withdrawal from the EU should take place.
“I believe the ‘home ground’ of Brussels will be a hostile environment for Team UK.”
Labour MP Kate Hoey fears holding talks in Brussels will hand the EU an advantage
I believe the ‘home ground’ of Brussels will be a hostile environment for Team UK
Labour MP Kate Hoey
The Leave supporter highlighted how the UK would be left dependent on the EU for facilities and resources in Brussels, while media access could be controlled by the bloc’s own officials.
She added: “It will be much easier for Team UK to be briefed against and very easy for this to happen there.
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“The EU want to be in complete control of the negotiations and – if the disapproving and downright hostile remarks made so far by senior EU bureaucrats are anything to go by – it will be an unfriendly environment.
“We should simply say, when sending our Article 50 letter, that we propose Switzerland as a famously efficient venue for high level meetings and negotiations.”
Switzerland is neither a member of the EU or the European Economic Area, although is part of the bloc’s Single Market.
Last year, the Alpine country played host to attempted peace talks to end the Syria conflict.
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This will become the new home of the European Council from January 2017, almost 13 years after EU bosses first decided they needed a bigger meeting-place due to the bloc’s growing size
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Ms Hoey suggested the hosting of Brexit talks in Brussels would also cause disruption to the normal day-to-day running of the EU.
She said: “This seems a sensible, common-sense approach to what will be a crucially important time in our journey to leaving the EU.”
It has been reported the Prime Minister is likely to trigger Article 50 on March 9, at the start of a planned two-day European Council summit of EU leaders.
Mrs May will first need to hope the Government’s Article 50 Bill, which would authorise her to send formal notification of Britain’s exit, passes smoothly through Parliament.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Exiting the EU said: “The precise timing and organisation of the negotiations will be a matter for discussion.”