May’s Brexit plan goes pop after ‘humiliation’ by EU, British media
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SEPTEMBER 21, 2018 / 8:26 AM / UPDATED 18 MINUTES AGO
LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit proposals were declared dead by the British media on Friday after what they cast as a humiliation at the hands of European Union leaders during a summit in Austria.
After a dinner of Wiener schnitzel in Salzburg, the EU leaders said they would push for a Brexit deal next month but rejected May’s proposal.
“Your Brexit’s broken,” the Daily Mirror newspaper said.
Newspapers led their front pages with a Reuters picture showing May, dressed in a red jacket, standing apparently aloof and alone from a mass of suited male EU leaders.
“May humiliated,” The Guardian said. “Humiliation for May,” said The Times on its front page.
“May’s Salzburg hopes dashed as EU leaders reject Chequers deal,” said the Financial Times, which has strongly supported Britain’s EU membership. The BBC said: “Embarrassing rebuff for PM in Salzburg.”
Few diplomats expected any breakthrough from the Salzburg summit as the EU has repeatedly made clear that May must rework her “Chequers” proposals which she insisted were the only serious plan.
However, the leaders warned May that if she does not give ground on trade and arrangements for the UK border with Ireland by November, they are ready to cope with Britain crashing out.
The tone of some of their comments, particularly the irony of European Council President Donald Tusk, left May exposed at home as she heads into what is expected to be a tumultuous annual conference of her Conservative Party from Sept. 30.
The British pound fell to $1.3218, from the two-month highs of $1.3295 hit on Thursday.
The negative headlines indicate the extent of the divergence in perceptions on Brexit between London and the capitals of the EU’s other 27 members.
An EU official said there may have been a slightly firmer tone than intended.
This was because an article that May published in German newspapers was tougher than expected and some EU leaders were annoyed by British efforts to bypass chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
“This was basically badly played by the Brits,” said the official.
The Sun, Britain’s best-selling newspaper, said the British public who should brace for a “no-deal” exit.
“EU Dirty Rats – Euro mobsters ambush May,” it said alongside a mocked up picture of French President Emmanuel Macron and Tusk cast as American gangsters with guns.
Macron bluntly said May’s Brexit proposals, named after the Chequers country house where they were agreed by the British cabinet in July, were unacceptable.
“CHEQUERS GOES POP”
Tusk was criticised for posting a picture of him offering May a choice of delicate cakes beside a message: “Sorry, no cherries.” That is a reference to what EU leaders cast as British attempts to cherry pick elements of EU membership.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tried to calm any hurt feelings but called for caution, comparing Britain and the EU with two loving hedgehogs. “When two hedgehogs hug each other, you have to be careful that there will be no scratches,” he told Austrian newspapers.
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, yet there is still no divorce deal. Rivals to May are circling and some rebels have vowed to vote down a possible Brexit deal in parliament.
“May will emerge as unique in the annals of history if she survives as PM much longer in the face of setbacks on this scale,” British journalist Robert Peston wrote of the Salzburg summit, under the headline “Chequers goes pop”.
May’s former Brexit minister David Davis has said up to 40 lawmakers from the Conservative Party will vote against her Brexit plans.
If a possible deal were rejected by the British parliament, Britain would face leaving the EU without an agreement, delaying Brexit or calling another referendum.
“If all conventional roads lead to a hard no-deal Brexit, the notion of Parliament exerting control and forcing another referendum on us would begin to look not wholly fanciful,” Peston wrote in the Spectator.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Additional reporting by Alastair MacDonald; Editing by Peter Graff and David Stamp
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