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EU planning to invite UK to security summit

The EU is planning to invite the UK’s next prime minister to a summit of European states next month as it seeks to build regional co-operation in the face of Russian aggression.

Invitations to the meeting in Prague on October 6 have not yet been dispatched, but officials say the UK is likely to be on the list, alongside leaders from other EU neighbours, including Ukraine, Moldova and Balkan countries.

The grouping, tentatively dubbed the European Political Community, was floated by French president Emmanuel Macron in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg in May as a forum for countries adhering to the EU’s core values ​​and allowing co-operation in areas such as security, energy and infrastructure.

It is intended to be a vehicle for deepening relations between the EU and its neighbors, among them aspiring EU member states such as Ukraine and Moldova which may face decades of waiting before they join the union.

European Council president Charles Michel set out his plans for such a grouping shortly after Macron, calling for a “geopolitical community that extends from Reykjavik to Baku or Yerevan, from Oslo to Ankara,” saying it could promote “peace, stability and security on our continent”.

Deciding whether to accept such an invitation would provide an early test of the next prime minister’s appetite for deepening the UK’s dialogue with its closest neighbours.

Earlier this year, Liz Trusswho is the frontrunner in the Conservative party leadership contest, told a House of Commons committee that the UK’s focus was on Nato and the G7 rather than the body mooted by Macron.

Last month Truss said the “jury’s out” when asked if Macron was a friend or foe.

The hope, said one official, is to show the democracies in the EU’s neighborhood are on the same side at a time when regional peace is under threat because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The meeting in Prague, under the auspices of the Czech presidency of the EU, would happen alongside a planned informal summit of EU leaders that is set to focus on responding to the energy crisis and the mounting economic challenges stemming from the Russian invasion.

Michel told a group of European newspapers including the Guardian this week that he expected the UK to be invited to the summit despite difficulties over the Northern Ireland Protocol, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the relationship. A spokesperson for Truss declined to comment on whether she would accept an invitation.

The move came as Conor Burns, the UK’s minister of state for Northern Ireland, held the first face-to-face meeting with the EU Brexit negotiator, Maroš Šefčovič since February.

“I will be sending advice [to the new prime minister] that there could well be the appetite to have another go at this [negotiation on the protocol],” Burns told a conference of the British-Irish Association in Oxford, where he met the EU vice-president and Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney.

Truss has angered Brussels by pushing ahead with a bill that would unilaterally scrap key parts of the protocol and government insiders told the FT she could trigger Article 16 proceedings to suspend the protocol within days of taking office if she becomes prime minister.

Brussels has warned that it will refuse to engage in meaningful negotiations until London takes the “loaded gun” of legislation off the table.

On Friday, Šefčovič said “further unilateral action may give the impression to many in the EU that the UK leadership is not that interested in co-operation with the EU”.

But on Saturday, hey tweeted that Brussels was ready to “ready to address” protocol concerns with the UK “in a spirit of partnership”.

Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheál Martin echoed his tone, saying: “We believe there is an opportunity with the election of a new British prime minister to create a window of opportunity to allow for a new spirit of negotiation”.

Coveney added: “If there’s a strong signal they want to do business, they will have a very generous reception from the EU.”

Additional reporting from Leila Abboud in Paris

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