NICOLA Sturgeon will meet Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier in Brussels next week as she steps up her fight to keep Scotland in the European Union.

The First Minister will meet the European Commission President and the Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator for separate talks during the one day visit to the Belgium capital.

She will also deliver a speech entitled “Brexit and what next for Scottish EU relations” to the European Policy Centre.

The development comes after the SNP is poised to exert greater influence in the European Parliament following the elections in Scotland last month when the party netted three MEPs.

They were elected on a platform of stopping Brexit and will sit in the parliament with the European Free Alliance group which forms a single bloc along with the Greens.

Alyn Smith is expected to be confirmed as President of the European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament this week. The position would automatically make him vice President of the Greens/EFA group.

The group could hold the balance of power after the parliament’s biggest parties – the European People’s Party and the Socialists/Democrats – lost their majority.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman confirmed the meetings with Juncker and Barnier.

She said: “The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will be in Brussels for a series of official meetings and speaking engagements on Tuesday. The First Minister’s meetings with President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier will be an opportunity to set out the Scottish Government’s position on future relations with the European Union.”

Looking ahead to the meeting with Barnier, the chief negotiator’s spokesman said: “I can confirm the meeting on Tuesday. The First Minister is also meeting with President Juncker.

“I believe it will be the third time the First Minister has met Monsieur Barnier. The meeting came at her request and he accepted of course.

“We are going to be in listening mode. We are not negotiating of course, but we are willing to listen to people from the UK who come over and give us their side of things.”

The meetings with Juncker and Barnier will be the first since Sturgeon announced her intention to hold a new independence referendum before May 2021.

They also come following Theresa May’s resignation as Tory leader and as the contest continues for the election of her successor – with hardline Brexiteer Boris Johnson the bookies’s favourite.

Johnson has said he is prepared to take the UK out of the EU ‘deal or no deal’ before the current delay to Brexit expires on 31 October.

Meanwhile, there is much speculation in Brussels that Barnier could succeed Juncker as European Commission President.

The lead candidate for the European Peoples’s Party – the group Barnier belongs to – is Manfred Weber. However, after the EPP lost seats in last month’s elections there have been suggestions a politician with a higher profile across the continent – such as Barnier – could get the job.

The development would further undermine suggestions by Tory leadership contenders that a new President would be ready to axe the withdrawal agreement May struck with the EU and reopen Brexit negotiations.

It is unlikely that Barnier, if he became President, would scrap the withdrawal agreement as he was its chief architect and spent around three years working on it.