Highlights: EU leaders' comments ahead of summit in Austria

Lloyd Doyle
September 21, 2018

Theresa May's having dinner tonight at the Felsenreitschule, an old theatre in Salzburg well known from the closing scenes in "The Sound of Music".

Theresa May's Brexit plan "will not work" the EU's 27 leaders have told her in a major blow to her chances of securing a deal on Britain's future relationship with the EU.

President of the European Council Donald Tusk, French President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron and British Prime minister Theresa May.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said there was no chance the European Union would compromise on its demands and rejected speculation the other countries would be tempted to fudge the Irish issue until later.

"Those people are liars".

It gave her an hour to prepare for a tense press conference, where May insisted on defending Chequers despite the setback.

Theresa May was left fighting to save her Chequers Brexit plan and with it her authority as prime minister after she was ambushed at the end of the Salzburg summit when European Union leaders unexpectedly declared that her proposals would not work.

She acknowledged that a bilateral meeting with Tusk was "frank".

May promised new proposals to reassure Dublin that it would not get a "hard border" with the British province of Northern Ireland but warned she too could live with a no-deal outcome - though many round the summit table in picturesque Salzburg see that as more of a negotiating tactic than a credible threat.

Speaking after her meeting with Mr Tusk, the PM said: "We both agree there can be no withdrawal agreement without a legally-operative backstop".

If 40 of May's 315 lawmakers and the opposition parties voted against a Brexit deal based on her proposals, she would fall short of the number needed to pass the legislation.

Tusk said of her so-called Chequers proposals that "the suggested framework for cooperation will not work, not least because it risks undermining the single market" of seamless movement of goods, services, capital and persons. The removal of border infrastructure was a key part of the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland after years of sectarian strife.

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 Britain rejects the EU's proposal, which would keep Northern Ireland inside the bloc's customs union while the rest of the United Kingdom leaves. But that backstop can not divide the United Kingdom into two customs territories, and we will be bringing forward our own proposals shortly.

Brexit was pushed by those "who predicted easy solutions", Macron said.

It's clear that significant gaps remain between both sides. "They will want to make her life possible", he said.

Despite reports of a friendly spirit at a summit in Salzburg, Austria, the fundamental differences remained.

He said Brexit "demonstrated that those who explain that one can get by easily without Europe - that it will all go well, that it is easy and brings in a lot of money - are liars".

What is clear, however, is that the chances of the Tories crashing Britain out of the European Union with no deal just got far more likely.

Significant chunks of her party won't wear the deal either.

And EU leaders want to make an example of the UK's pain to any other countries even thinking of leaving: Breaking up is hard to do.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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