EU Trashes May's Brexit Plan 09/21 05:52
British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit blueprint was in tatters Friday,
after the European Union rejected it at a summit in a move that the U.K. media
branded a "humiliation."
LONDON (AP) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit blueprint was in
tatters Friday, after the European Union rejected it at a summit in a move that
the U.K. media branded a "humiliation."
European Council President Donald Tusk said bluntly at a meeting in
Salzburg, Austria, that parts of May's plan simply "will not work," while
French President Emmanuel Macron called pro-Brexit U.K. politicians "liars" who
had misled the country about the costs of leaving the 28-nation bloc.
A rattled May insisted that her plan was the only one on the table --- and
that Britain was prepared to walk away from the EU without a deal if it was
The rocky summit dashed British hopes of a breakthrough in stalled divorce
talks, with just six months to go until Britain leaves the bloc on March 29.
The judgment of British newspapers was brutal. The broadly pro-EU Guardian
said May had been "humiliated." The conservative Times of London said:
"Humiliation for May as EU rejects Brexit plan."
The Brexit-supporting tabloid Sun branded bloc leaders "EU dirty rats,"
accusing "Euro mobsters" Tusk and Macron of "ambushing" May.
Despite all the heated British rhetoric, the EU's position is not new. May's
"Chequers plan" --- named for the prime minister's country retreat where it was
hammered out in July --- aims to keep the U.K. in the EU single market for
goods, but not services, in order to ensure free trade with the bloc and an
open border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
EU officials have been cool on the plan from the start, saying Britain can't
"cherry-pick" elements of membership in the bloc without accepting all the
costs and responsibilities.
Yet British politicians and diplomats were taken aback by Tusk's blunt
dismissal of the Chequers plan on Thursday --- and by his light-hearted
Instagram post showing Tusk and May looking at a dessert tray and the words: "A
piece of cake, perhaps? Sorry, no cherries."
Anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller said British officials shouldn't have
Miller said the EU had "made it very clear where they stand and the U.K. has
been so focused on its own infighting that they actually have not been
"How can (May) have been so badly advised? It stinks of incompetence, the
whole thing, when the moment of reality is only four weeks away," Miller told
Tusk said Thursday that an EU summit on Oct. 18 and 19 would be the moment
of truth, when an agreement on divorce terms and the outlines of future trade
would be sealed, or would fail.
The biggest single obstacle to a deal is the need to maintain an open Irish
border. Failing to do so could disrupt the lives of people and business on both
sides, and undermine Northern Ireland's hard-won peace.
Britain and the EU have agreed on the need for a legally binding backstop to
guarantee there is no return to customs posts and other border checks. But
Britain rejects the EU's proposed solution, which would keep Northern Ireland
inside the bloc's customs union while the rest of the U.K. leaves.
May said that would "divide the United Kingdom into two customs
territories." She said Britain "will be bringing forward our own proposals
shortly" about how to break the impasse.
Dealing with the EU is only part of May's problem. Her Chequers plan also
faces opposition from pro-Brexit members of her own Conservative Party,
including former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who say it would keep Britain
tethered to the bloc, unable to strike new trade deals around the world.
The Salzburg summit has given them new energy. When the Conservatives meet
for their annual conference on Sept. 30, they plan to push for May to ditch the
Chequers plan, or face a challenge to her leadership.
Pro-EU politicians don't like the Chequers plan either, saying it will cut
the U.K.'s vast services sector out of the single market.
Conservative lawmaker Stephen Crabb said that May --- assailed from all
sides --- should keep her nerve.
"The first rule is, don't panic," he told the BBC. "One of the outcomes the
EU leaders wanted from yesterday was for Britain to go away, push the panic
button and re-think, but the prime minister needs to stick to her guns."