Time for Brexit Deal Running Out, EU Leaders Warn after May’s ‘Interesting’ Speech
A number of leaders of EU member states have warned at a summit in Salzburg, Austria, that the EU and the UK are running out of time for striking a Brexit deal, after British Prime Minister Theresa May ruled out delaying Britain’s departure from the Union by even a day.
After May’s 10-minute speech on Brexit on the first night of the informal summit of the EU 28 leaders, the second day of the gathering brought comments that the Union and Britain are nowhere near decisive breakthroughs on the main bones of contentions between Brussels and London.
May’s Brexit speech from Wednesday night was described on Thursday by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker “interesting”.
“It was polite, it was not aggressive, she was doing her job,” he told reporters as he arrived for a second day of talks.
Meanwhile, two EU state leaders, Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the Czech Republic’s Prime Minister Andrej Babis, expressed hopes that the UK might be willing to hold another Brexit referendum and reverse the decision made by the British public in June 2016.
Muscat in particular is quoted as saying that most of his counterparts would like the “almost impossible” to happen.
The prospect of a second referendum on Brexit in the UK has been ruled out repeatedly by British leader May.
“Time is running short,” said Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who met with May bilaterally before the EU leaders gathered for the second day of the summit.
“We both need to find a compromise,” Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel is quoted as saying.
“As long as there is no deal, there is the risk of ‘no-deal’,” Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of The Netherlands, warned in kind.
Upon arriving at the Salzburg summit, French President Emmanuel Macron emphasized the EU’s “very clear principles” about preserving the “integrity” of its single market, a reference to May’s controversial the Chequers plan, whose stipulations that the post-Brexit UK could remain partly in the single market have been dismissed by the EU.
The integrity of the European single market was also stressed by Muscat who described it as a “big fat red line” for the EU.
The leaders of the EU 27 are to discuss Brexit without May later on Thursday.
An EU – UK deal was supposed to be reached by the European Council summit on October 18, 2018. The new expectation is to reach an agreement by mid-November when a special crunch EU summit would be convened.
(Banner image: Austrian EU Presidency on Twitter)