Theresa May’s Brexit plan was brutally torpedoed by the EU today as the deadlock in negotiations deepened.
Despite the PM making a plea for compromise at a summit in Salzburg, EU council chief Donald Tusk insisted her Chequers plan ‘will not work’ and would undermine the single market.
Meanwhile, Mrs May bluntly dismissed the EU commission’s latest proposals for resolving the Northern Ireland border issue, saying they would break up the UK.
‘The backstop cannot divide the UK into two customs territories,’ she told a press conference at the close of the summit.
The bruising clashes came as the bloc’s leaders warned a Brexit deal is still ‘far away’ – and urged the UK to hold another referendum.
Ramping up the pressure, Dutch PM Mark Rutte jibed that his country had made more preparations for a no-deal outcome than Britain.
Emmanuel Macron, whose stance on Brexit has been among the toughest, took a swipe at ‘liars’ who said the UK could ‘live easily without Europe’.
Angela Merkel said ‘substantial progress’ must be made by October for there to be any chance of getting an agreement.
The unexpected ferocity of the language from the EU appeared to take Mrs May aback, as she looked tetchy and slightly shaken answering questions from journalists.
Downing Street had been hoping fellow leaders would give her a soft ride to avoid fueling a mounting mutiny by Tory Eurosceptics ahead of the looming party conference.
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Theresa May was left isolated at the Salzburg summit after leaders turned on her Chequers plan for Brexit
Theresa May (pictured at the close of the Salzburg summit today) bluntly dismissed the EU commission’s latest proposals for resolving the Northern Ireland border issue, saying they would break up the UK
At a press conference in Salzburg today (pictured), EU council chief Donald Tusk insisted Theresa May’s Chequers plan would undermine the single market
The EU leaders did not hold back in their criticism of the Chequers plan despite Mrs May’s perilous political position. Pictured are (left to right) Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Mr Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker
Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured next to Theresa May at the Salzburg summit today) said the two sides were ‘far away’ from a Brexit deal
Mrs May lined up alongside her EU counterparts including Angela Merkel (centre of front row) for the ‘family photo’ at the summit today
Over dinner with her 27 counterparts last night, Mrs May ruled out any delay to Britain’s departure from the EU in March – insisting there were no circumstances in which she would consider another national vote on the issue.
But her fellow leaders – who received the speech in stony silence as they have vowed not to discuss Brexit directly with the UK – were unimpressed.
At a press conference closing the gathering this afternoon, Mr Tusk said ”Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic cooperation will not work, not least as it risks undermining the single market.’
French President Emmanuel Macron took a clear swipe at Mrs May’s proposals to align with EU rules on goods but not services, saying he would not accept so-called ‘cherry-picking’ that eroded the EU single market.
‘Those who explain that we can easily live without Europe, that everything is going to be alright, and that it’s going to bring a lot of money home are liars,’ he said.
Other leaders said the talks were at a ‘standstill’, and called for the UK to hold another public vote to reverse Brexit altogether.
Mr Rutte suggested little had changed over the two days in Salzburg.
‘I do not feel more confident, but also at the same time not less optimistic.’
He added ‘I think we have made more preparations for a no deal than the UK has.’
These are some of the key features of the Chequers plan being pushed by the UK government
Mrs Merkel told her own press conference in Salzburg that ‘substantial progress’ was needed on the UK’s withdrawal agreement by the next European Council meeting in October, in order to pave the way for it to be finalised at a special summit in November.
She warned there was ‘still a large piece of work’ on the separate issue of future trade relations with the UK.
The EU27 were ‘united that, in the matter of the single market, there can be no compromises’, she said.
‘No-one can belong to the single market if they are not part of the single market.’
Mr Tusk mocked Mrs May on social media, posting a picture of them choosing cake at the summit with the message ‘Sorry, no cherries.’
Asked at her press conference how she can cling on to her Chequers plan in the face of so much opposition, Mrs May said ‘Yes concerns have been raised, I wasn’t to know what those concerns are. There is a lot of hard work to be done.
‘But I believe that there is a willingness to do a deal.
‘But let nobody be in any doubt, as I’ve always said, we are preparing for no deal so that if we get to a position where it is not possible to do a deal then the British people can be confidence that we will have done what is necessary to ensure we make a success of the European Union regardless if he terms on which we do so.’
Mrs May said that the UK would ‘shortly’ be coming forward with new proposals on the ‘backstop’ arrangements for the Northern Irish border.
She again categorically ruled out holding a second referendum.
‘There will be no second referendum. There has been a vote of the people, it took place in June 2016 and people voted to leave the European Union,’ she said.
Meanwhile, Mrs May is facing a growing revolt at home with Tory plotters branding her ‘deluded’ and calling Chequers ‘as dead as a dodo’.
Mrs May held talks with Irish PM Leo Varadkar this morning, and was seen deep in conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as they arrived at the summit venue this morning.
But after a discussion on security, she will again be shut out of proceedings as the 27 remaining member states hold a private discussion on Brexit.
Emmanuel Macron (pictured at a press conference this afternoon) has taken one of the hardest lines against the Chequers proposals
Angela Merkel said there must be substantial progress by a summit in October in order for a deal to be ratified by the Brexit date in March
Mrs May greeted Mr Juncker warmly at the summit today but the negotiations are deadlocked
EU leaders were continuing their discussions at the informal summit in Salzburg today
Arriving this morning, EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the two sides remained ‘far away’ from a deal.
Slovak PM Peter Pellegrini said ‘There has been no progress’ and Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite said simply ‘It’s a standstill’.
Malta’s PM Joseph Muscat said there was ‘almost unanimous’ support among EU leaders for Britain to hold a second referendum on membership of the union.
Mr Muscat said that any deal would be ‘sub-optimal’ to continued membership, saying ‘it won’t be as easy as yesterday to trade between the two sides’.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he said ‘There is a unanimous, or almost unanimous I would say right now, point of view around the table that we would like the almost impossible to happen, that the UK has another referendum.
‘I wouldn’t know what the result would be, whether it would be any different from the first result.
‘I think most of us would welcome a situation where there is the possibility of the British people putting things into perspective, seeing what has been negotiated, seeing the options and then deciding once and for all.’
But Mrs May did get backing from controversial Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, who complained that some of his fellow leaders wanted the British to ‘suffer’ because they voted to leave.
Mrs May put on a brave face today as she started crucial talks with EU leaders in Salzburg after several said talks over Brexit are ‘at a standstill’. She is pictured with Jean-Claude Juncker (centre) and Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel (right)
In a clear swipe at Mrs May’s proposals to align with EU rules on goods but not services, French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured) today warned he would not accept anything that undermined the EU single market
The leaders chatted awkwardly as they lined up for the family photo in Salzburg today
Theresa May was deep in conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) as they arrived at the summit in Salzburg today
Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite said of the Brexit negotiations ‘It’s a standstill’
EU council president Donald Tusk took to Instagram to joke about the standoff today, posting a picture of himself choosing cakes with Mrs May and the message ‘Sorry, no cherries.’
‘I don’t like that approach at all. So what we need is a fair Brexit and a good cooperation between the UK and the European Union in the future,’ he said.
As the pressure on Mrs May increases, Nicola Sturgeon has called for all British political parties to back an extension to the Article 50 process.
‘Taking the UK off the Brexit cliff edge without knowing where it lands would be the most irresponsible thing any prime minister has done in a very, very long time,’ she told the BBC.
‘That’s why I think if that’s the situation we end up in (then) extending Article 50 is a far better way of proceeding.’
Tory conspirators believe the Prime Minister could be forced to stand down after Brexit according to a memo circulating among MPs last night.
The document also assesses who Mrs May’s likely successor will be and rates their chances.
The document is based on the assumption that the 1922 Committee of senior backbench Tories will ‘invite the PM to stand-down soon(ish) after March 2019’.
It advises MPs to ‘manoeuvre immediately’ and sets out details of 27 potential candidates, according to the Daily Telegraph. It describes Environment Secretary Michael Gove as being ‘on manoeuvres’, says Chancellor Philip Hammond is ‘thinking he has a chance’ but has ‘not a hope’, while Trade Secretary Liam Fox’s prospects are ‘fading’.
Boris Johnson is described as ‘the front runner’ but is considered an unlikely successor because ‘the front runner never wins’. Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic Tories, was not on the leaked list.
There is a deep rift in the party over her Chequers deal – with Brexiteers and Remainers both unhappy with it.
An ally of Mrs May said her Chequers plan was as ‘dead as a dodo’ and claimed the Prime Minister tried to ‘blackmail’ her MPs to support it.
Sir Mike Penning told the Daily Telegraph that Mrs May was ‘deluded’ if she thought she could persuade Tory Eurosceptics to back a Brexit deal based on Chequers.
The former minister said she was playing ‘Russian Roulette’ with the country and had treated her own MPs ‘like children on the naughty step’.
Theresa May held talks with Irish PM Leo Varadkar (pictured) before the summit entered its second day in Salburg this morning
Over dinner last night (pictured), gathered EU leaders were told that Britain would be prepared to walk away from the negotiating table if a deal was not struck quickly
The male premiers appeared to be enjoying themselves as they prepared for the group photo. Pictured front row left to right, Mr Macron, Austria’s Sebatian Kurz, Mr Tusk; back row left to right, Mr Rutte, Luzembourg PM Xavier Bettel, Latvian PM Maris Kucinskis
In recent weeks, senior figures in Brussels have floated the idea of extending the Article 50 process for up to a year to allow the talks to drift on as the Irish border issue caused deadlock.
With Labour and several Tory MPs wobbling on the issue, some harbour hopes that ministers could even agree to hold a second referendum.
Treasury minister Mel Stride went off message yesterday when he warned Eurosceptics that they could ‘end up in the situation where we could have a second referendum’ if they vote down the Chequers deal in Parliament.
But speaking directly to EU leaders at a special summit in Salzburg last night, Mrs May said delaying Brexit was ‘not an option’.
Over a dinner of wiener schnitzel and Austrian wines at Felsenreitschule, the theatre where The Sound of Music was filmed, she said ‘We all recognise that time is short, but delaying or extending these negotiations is not an option. I know for many of you, Brexit is not something you want, but it is important to be clear – there will be no second referendum in the UK.
‘The public has delivered its verdict and I as Prime Minister will deliver on that. The UK will leave on March 29 next year. I have put forward serious and workable proposals.
‘We will not, of course, agree on every detail, but the onus is now on all of us to get this deal done.’
Large-scale protests were undertaken near the venue in opposition to the Austrian government’s controversial migration policies
Arriving at the summit yesterday, Mrs May said she remained ‘confident’ of a good deal – but warned that the EU would have to ‘evolve’ its position and move closer to her Chequers proposals, which have been greeted with scepticism in Brussels.
Mr Tusk described elements of the Chequers proposals as a ‘positive evolution in the UK approach’, particularly on security co-operation.
But he said key differences remained, adding ‘On other issues such as the Irish question or the framework of economic co-operation the UK proposals will need to be reworked and further negotiated. Today there is perhaps more hope but there is surely less and less time.’
The commission is hostile to the proposal for a ‘common rule book’ with the UK on goods and the idea of the UK collecting tariffs for the EU, but some EU leaders made it clear they were desperate to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who holds the EU’s revolving presidency, said ‘We are convinced that we need a deal. We must do everything to avoid a hard Brexit.
‘It would not just harm British, but would also cause damage for us in Europe. We are striving to make a compromise possible.’
Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel said ‘We need to find a deal, a no-deal is a really bad solution. It’s a terrible solution for the UK and a bad solution for Europe. So we need to find a deal.’
The Chequers proposals led to the resignations of Boris Johnson and David Davis.
EU leaders are expected to deliver their first public verdict on the issue today following discussions from which Mrs May will be excluded.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mrs May also insisted there would be no second referendum in Britain in a warning both to Remain rebels in the UK and EU politicians who still hope Brexit can be stopped.
Earlier, the PM’s hopes of discussing her Chequers plan at length with counterparts for the first time were dashed, meaning her short speech was received in silence.
Meanwhile, Michel Barnier reiterated his demand for Northern Ireland to stay within the EU’s customs jurisdiction after Brexit – something the UK has repeatedly ruled out.
The DUP, which is propping the Tories up in power, dismissed the Eurocrat’s promise to ‘improve’ his Irish border solution by using technology to reduce the need for checks.
Mr Barnier renewed his efforts to ‘de-dramatise’ the Irish border issue yesterday by saying he was working on a new draft of his blueprint.
Eurocrats have been sounding a more optimistic tone about the way checks can be enforced over recent weeks, including admitting that technology and ‘trusted trader’ schemes can largely do away with the need for physical infrastructure.
The EU official suggested officials could inspect goods entering the UK via Ireland on ferries and in business premises away from the border.
He said ‘We are ready to improve this proposal. Work on the EU side is ongoing. We are clarifying which goods arriving in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK would need to be checked and where, when and by whom these checks could be performed’.
Mr Barnier said talks were in the ‘home straight’, although two key issues remained unresolved ahead of October’s deadlines – one being the problem surrounding the Irish border.
He insisted an Irish ‘backstop’ must be legally operationally and respect the UK’s constitutional integrity.
Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker agreed the outline of a divorce deal in December
Theresa May and the EU effectively fudged the Irish border issue in the Brexit divorce deal before Christmas.
But the commitments to leave the EU customs union, keep a soft border, and avoid divisions within the UK were always going to need reconciling at some stage. Currently 110million journeys take place across the border every year.
All sides in the negotiations insist they want to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, but their ideas for how the issues should be solved are very different.
If they fail to strike a deal it could mean a hard border on the island – which could potentially put the Good Friday Agreement at risk.
The UK blueprint
The PM has made clear her favoured outcome for Brexit is a deep free trade deal with the EU.
The UK side initially set out two options for how the border could look.
A ‘Maximum Facilitation’ scheme would have seen a highly streamlined customs arrangement, using a combination of technology and goodwill to minimise the checks on trade.
There would be no entry or exit declarations for goods at the border, while ‘advanced’ IT and trusted trader schemes would remove the need for vehicles to be stopped.
The second option was described as a customs partnership, which would see the UK collect tariffs on behalf of the EU – along with its own tariffs for goods heading into the wider British market.
At the Chequers Cabinet summit earlier this month, Mrs May pushed through a compromise plan with elements of both.
It would see the UK follow a ‘common rule book’ with the EU on goods and collect some tariffs on behalf of Brussels to avoid border friction.
UK courts would also take account of decisions by EU judges.
Brexiteers have been incensed by the proposal, which they say makes too many concessions and will prevent Britain doing trade deals elsewhere. Boris Johnson and David Davis quit in protest, threatening to send Mrs May tumbling out of Downing Street.
It was also initially dismissed as ‘cherry picking’ by Eurocrats.
The EU blueprint
The divorce deal set out a ‘fallback’ option under which the UK would maintain ‘full alignment’ with enough rules of the customs union and single market to prevent a hard border and protect the Good Friday Agreement.
The inclusion of this clause, at the demand of Ireland, almost wrecked the deal until Mrs May added a commitment that there would also be full alignment between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
But when the EU translated this option into a legal text they hardened it further to make clear Northern Ireland would be fully within the EU customs union and most single market rules.
Mrs May says no Prime Minister could ever agree to such terms, as they would undermine the constitutional integrity of the UK.
Under the new plan from Brussels, goods could be tracked using barcodes on shipping containers under ‘trusted-trader’ schemes – effectively removing the need for new border infrastructure.
The new EU draft could unlock the negotiations as it accepts a key element of the UK’s about the use of technology, and makes clear that most checks would not take place at any particular border.
Brussels is drafting the plan to prevent Scottish nationalists from demanding the same arrangements – a major concern of the UK.
However, the solution is still specific to Northern Ireland, rather than covering the whole UK as the government wants.
A hard border
Neither side wants a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
But they appear to be locked in a cyclical dispute, with each adamant the other’s solutions are impossible to accept.
If there is no deal and the UK and EU reverts to basic World Trade Organisation (WTO) relationship, theoretically there would need to be physical border posts with customs checks on vehicles and goods.
That could prove catastrophic for the Good Friday Agreement, with fears terrorists would resurface and the cycle of violence escalate.
Many Brexiteers have suggested Britain could simply refuse to erect a hard border – and dare the EU to put up their own fences.
Theresa May (pictured in Downing Street) meets EU leaders in Salzburg tomorrow in the first of a series of choreographed moments on the final road to Brexit
Salzburg Summit, September 19-20
In a crucial moment tomorrow, the Prime Minister will address EU leaders on her Chequers proposals for the first time.
She will set out why the proposals are the only ‘credible and negotiable’ plan that both honours the referendum vote and – in her view – works for the EU.
The response of EU leaders will be crucial. Most have been cool on the ideas so far but expectation is rising they could give EU Negotiator Michel Barnier new guidelines within which to strike a deal.
EU Council President Donald Tusk has said the meeting must reach a ‘common view’ on the shape of the future UK-EU relationship and agree the final phase of talks.
Failure would dramatically raise the chance of no deal.
Next round of negotiations, September 21 to mid-October
The following month of detailed talks will be among the most crucial so far.
If the Salzburg summit sees EU leaders agree a broad framework as planned, the UK and EU negotiators will have just weeks to frame a ‘political declaration’ on the future relationship and finalise the withdrawal treaty.
How far they get in drafting the documents – and how much is left to EU leaders themselves – will determine when, if at all, an agreement can be struck.
The political declaration will explain in non-legal language what the two sides plans to agree in the final treaty.
A political declaration was used in December 2017 to outline the proposed transition deal and the £39billion divorce bill agreed by the UK. This is what is currently being turned into legal language for the withdrawal treaty.
EU Negotiator Michel Barnier (right in Brussels last week) maybe given new guidelines this week within which to strike a deal. EU Council President Donald Tusk (left) has said the meeting must reach a ‘common view’ on the shape of the future UK-EU relationship
EU Summit, Brussels, October 18-19
October’s EU summit has long been pencilled in as the opportunity for EU leaders to agree the withdrawal treaty on the terms of exit and a political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and EU.
If a deal can be struck in October, it leaves plenty of time for it to be agreed in the UK and ratified in the EU, paving the way for an orderly Brexit in March.
A deal is not expected to be finalised at this summit but both sides will hope for significant progress – even if the summit is used to set out the dividing lines one last time.
Emergency EU Summit, Brussels, November 13
A one-day emergency summit in November is now widely expected. If it happens, there will be acute political pressure to finalise both the withdrawal treaty and political declaration – if nothing else to allow the EU to return to other business.
Expect a high stakes meeting and a late night finish. Failure will see both sides walking up to the brink of a chaotic exit and peering over the edge.
The response of the European Council (including German Chancellor Angela Merkel) will be crucial in the next stages of the EU talks
EU Summit, Brussels, December 13-14
Given the need to ratify the deal, the December summit is the last chance to strike a deal. Brexit is not supposed to be on the agenda if the talks reach this summit there has been a major breakdown.
The EU does infamously find a way to agreement at the 11th hour and if Brexit talks are still live in December, many will hope for a fudge that can get both sides over the line.
Last year, talks on the outline divorce deal were pushed to December and a deal was – just – reached.
The so-called ‘meaningful vote’ in the UK Parliament, January 2019
Assuming there is a withdrawal treaty and political declaration, the next stage is for the action is in the UK Parliament.
Mrs May promised Tory Remain rebels a ‘meaningful’ vote on the final deal in both the Commons and Lords.
This is expected to be a simple yes or no vote on what she has negotiated – so in theory a detailed withdrawal treaty, spelling out the divorce bill and other issues such as citizens’ rights, and the political declaration on the future relationship.
Linking the two will be a high stakes moment. Brexiteers do not want to sign off the divorce bill without a trade deal and Remainers are reluctant to vote for a blind Brexit.
But the Prime Minister has made clear it is deal or no deal accept what she has negotiated or leave Britain crashing out on March 29, 2019 with no agreement in place.
If the meaningful vote is passed, there will be a series of further votes as the withdrawal treaty is written into British law.
The Prime Minister (pictured at the EU Council in June) has made clear it is deal or no deal accept what she has negotiated or leave Britain crashing out on March 29, 2019 with no agreement in place
Ratification in the EU, February 2019
After the meaningful vote in the UK, the EU will have to ratify the agreement. This is a two stage process.
National parliaments in all 27 countries have to vote on the deal. It does not need to pass everywhere but must be carried in at least 20 of the 27 countries, with Yes votes covering at least 65 per cent of the EU population.
The European Parliament must also vote in favour of the deal. It has a representative in the talks, Guy Verhofstadt, who has repeatedly warned the deal must serve the EU’s interests.
In practice, once the leaders of the 27 member states have agreed a deal, ratification on the EU side should be assured.
Exit day, March 29, 2019
At 11pm on March 29, 2019, Britain will cease to be a member of the European Union, two years after triggering Article 50 and almost three years after the referendum.
Exit happens at 11pm because it must happen on EU time.
If the transition deal is in place, little will change immediately – people will travel in the same way as today and goods will cross the border normally.
But Britain’s MEPs will no longer sit in the European Parliament and British ministers will no longer take part in EU meetings.
Negotiations will continue to turn the political agreement on the future partnership into legal text that will eventually become a second treaty. Both sides will build new customs and immigration controls in line with what this says.
If there is no deal, there is little clarity on what will happen. Britain has outlined contingencies for a catastrophic breakdown in transport and goods networks; in practice short term, small side deals will be likely be rapidly negotiated to avert the worst consequences.
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