Charles Michel, prime minister of Belgium
Charles Michel, prime minister of Belgium Getty

The prime minister of Belgium has urged Theresa May to pursue a so-called "smart Brexit". Charles Michel issued the plea to the UK premier as the top European leaders met at Downing Street on Tuesday (22 November).

"There is a real desire to work for a 'smart Brexit', just as I advocate. This means a Brexit where economic interests are protected on both sides and where we are careful that Brexit is not a starting point of Europe's dismantlement," he told RTL TV.

"We don't want to give other countries bad ideas, especially in a moment when Europe needs unity to deal with Russia, with terrorism and the terrible situation in Syria, and with the potential changes in the US following [Donald] Trump's election."

Michel added: "I feel reassured that there is a strong belief on the part of the British government that the bilateral relationship between the UK and Belgium is good and has to remain good because we have a common interest on the economic front.

"More than 10,000 jobs exist in Belgium thanks to our relationship with the UK and we want to pursue these efforts."

Davis' EU charm offensive

David Davis
Brexit Secretary David Davis Leon Neal/ Getty Images

The summit came as Brexit Secretary David Davis met with groups of MEPs in Strasbourg, France.

The latest talks came just a day after Davis held an informal meeting with the European Commission's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels.

German MEP Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People's Party, said he has not heard anything new from the top Conservative.

"For us it's clear: The four fundamental freedoms are not negotiable," he warned, in reference to the UK's concerns over the free movement of people.

Guy Verhofstadt, the president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and the EU Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator, also held talks with Davis.

The senior MEP said an agreement needed to be found between the UK and Brussels before the next EU Parliament elections in June 2019.

May has promised to trigger Article 50, the official mechanism to split from the EU, by March 2017. The move is expected to be followed by two years of talks with Brussels.

But the UK government was dealt a blow when England's High Court said MPs must have a vote on the issue. The Conservative administration are challenging the decision at the Supreme Court from 5 December, with ruling expected in January 2017.

UPDATE: 9:39 GMT, 23 November

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "The leaders discussed the recent US election and the Prime Minister emphasised that a strong transatlantic relationship remains the foundation of global security and prosperity. They also discussed Russia and the importance of finding a solution to the conflict in Syria.

"On counter-terrorism, they agreed that police and the security services should continue to work closely together to ensure the safety of both UK and Belgian nationals. They stated that this was a good example of the strong connection between our two countries."