UK’s Brexit Plan ‘Will Not Work’, EU Leaders Conclude at Salzburg Summit
UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s embattled blueprint for Brexit known as the Chequers Plan “will not work” with the proposed economic partnership terms between the EU and Britain, the EU 27 leaders have agreed, as announced by European Council President Donald Tusk.
Speaking at the end of the informal summit of the EU member state leaders in Salzburg, Austria, Tusk became on Thursday night the latest top European Union official to dismiss key provisions of the UK leader’s Brexit plan.
May’s Brexit blueprint outlined in a UK government White Paper in essence proposes that Britain remain in the European single market “selectively” after quitting the EU, with first the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier saying it could not be allowed, and then European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker already ruling that out.
At the same time, largely because of that the Chequers plan has been heavily criticized by Brexiteers within May’s ruling Conservative Party as giving in too much to the EU.
“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 because it risks undermining the Single Market,” European Council President Tusk said in his concluding remarks in Salzburg.
The EU leaders also remained intransigent in their demand for a backstop deal to prevent a hard border between EU member Ireland and the UK’s Northern Ireland after Brexit, possibly the bumpiest issue in the Brexit talks.
“We reconfirmed that there will be no Withdrawal Agreement without a solid, operational and legally binding Irish backstop. And we continue to fully support Michel Barnier in his efforts to find such a model,” Tusk stated.
With the Brexit deal talks between the EU and the UK failing to produce tangible breakthroughs in the bones of contention for several months now, the European Council President made it clear “the moment of truth” was just around the corner.
“We also discussed the timetable for further negotiations. The moment of truth for Brexit negotiations will be the October European Council. In October we expect maximum progress and results in the Brexit talks. Then we will decide whether conditions are there to call an extraordinary summit in November to finalize and formalize the deal,” Tusk declared.
Earlier during the Salzburg summit, a number of the EU state leaders warned that the time for a Brexit deal was running out in spite of a speech by British Prime Minister Theresa May ruled out delaying Britain’s departure from the Union beyond the set Brexit date of March 29, 2019.
At the end of the summit, May continued to argue that her proposals were the “only serious credible” way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.
She reiterated that she would not accept the EU’s “backstop” plan for the Irish border, and that the UK would shortly be bringing forward its own proposals.
“Yes, concerns have been raised and I want to know what those concerns are,” the UK leader stated after having had “frank” talks with Tusk in Salzburg, as cited by BBC News.
She added “a lot of hard work to be done”, and that the UK was also making preparations in case of a no-deal Brexit.
EU Council President Tusk’s comments were mirrored by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who declared that the Brexit talks needed to see “substantial progress” by the next European Council meeting in October, while French President Emmanuel Macron pondered on the justification for Brexit.
“[The EU 27 members are] united that, in the matter of the single market, there can be no compromises,” Markel said.
“[Brexit was] pushed by certain people who predicted easy solutions,” Macron stated.
“Brexit has shown us one thing – and I fully respect British sovereignty in saying this – it has demonstrated that those who said you can easily do without Europe, that it will all go very well, that it is easy and there will be lots of money, are liars.This is all the more true because they left the next day, so they didn’t have to manage it,” France’s President concluded.
(Banner image: Austrian EU Presidency on Twitter)