A planned meeting between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and her Italian counterpart has been indefinitely "postponed", a Downing Street source confirmed to IBTimes UK on Wednesday (11 January).

The decision comes after Paolo Gentiloni was rushed into emergency heart surgery on Tuesday night to reportedly unblock an obstructed blood vessel.

The 62-year-old, who succeeded Matteo Renzi in December, was due to visit London on Thursday. A spokesman for the Italian Embassy in London told IBTimes UK there was no new date for the summit.

Gentiloni would have been the first EU leader to meet May in 2017, with just months to go before the UK premier plans to invoke Article 50, the mechanism to split from the Brussels.

The former Italian Foreign Minister suggested in July that Brexit might not happen. "In the last 20 years we saw decisions, referendums in Europe changed by other referendums or even by decisions of the national parliament," he told the BBC.

But May has continually stressed that "Brexit means Brexit" and that her government are committed to splitting from the EU.

She has also warned about the rise of "fringe" politics in Europe, a phenomenon Gentiloni may recognise in the shape of Beppe Grillo's populist Five Star Movement.

"We see those fringe voices gaining prominence in some countries across Europe today – voices from the hard-left and the far-right stepping forward and sensing that this is their time," May said.

"But they stand on the shoulders of mainstream politicians who have allowed unfairness and division to grow by ignoring the legitimate concerns of ordinary people for too long.

"Politicians who embraced the twin pillars of liberalism and globalisation as the great forces for good that they are, but failed to understand that for too many people – particularly those on modest to low incomes living in rich countries like our own – those forces are something to be concerned, not thrilled, about."