European leaders pour scorn on British PM's Brexit plan

CommentSeptember 18 2018 5:00pm The TimesDon’t expect economy to bounce even if we do get a Brexit dealnew David Smith

A lavish dinner in the opulent setting of the Felsenreitschul theatre in Salzburg on Wednesday failed to smooth the way. By Thursday, there wasn't much left but bitterness and rancour.

Donald Tusk, European Council president, said May's signal proposal to create a British-European free trade regime covering agriculture and goods - but not services - was not acceptable.

"... It must be clear that there are some issues where we are not ready to compromise and first of all this is our four fundamental freedoms and the single market".

Emmanuel Macron, the French President, was harshest of all. The entire Brexit project was sold to the British people by "liars" who immediately fled the stage, unwilling to see their project through.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis, who quit the government in July, said on Thursday that the Chequers plan was "devoid of democracy" and "worse than no deal". But Chequers was the only game in town, she told reporters.

Britain and the European Union both want to reach a deal by the end of 2018, to allow enough time for all the bloc's national parliaments to debate and vote on it before the expected Brexit day of 29 March 2019.

"There are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, but the suggested framework for economic cooperation will not work, not least because it risks undermining the single market", Tusk said.

European Union leaders repeated their view the plans would undermine their cherished single market.

For Ireland, it's important not to undermine the hard-won peace after decades of sectarian tensions in neighboring Northern Ireland.

Grieve had initially tabled an amendment to the bill demanding that Parliament was given a meaningful vote on the outcome of Brexit negotiations in the event of a no deal scenario.

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He added: "The Irish question remains our priority too and for this we need only goodwill - which we feel, the atmosphere was better than two or three weeks ago - but the Irish question needs something more than good intentions". "Without clear a precise solution to the Irish question, and for the whole context of our economic future relations, it will be hard even to imagine a positive process after October", Tusk said.

Many business chiefs and investors say a so called "no-deal" Brexit would weaken the West, panic financial markets and block the arteries of trade.

Should the prospect of a no deal Brexit be brought before Parliament, it is believed that MPs would vote such a scenario down by a huge margin of nearly 4 to 1.

She stated: "It is in everybody's interests, the United Kingdom's and the EU's, to make sure there is a deal".

Meanwhile, PM May is promising Ireland that it will not see a "hard border" with Britain, though PM May is also warning that she too is not afraid to see a hard exit from the European Union, bringing the round-table discussions in Salzburg to a rough standstill as both sides throw around the concept of a hard-Brexit as more of a negotiating tactic than an outright threat.

Some leaders expressed deep frustration.

'Those who explain that everything is going to be alright are liars, ' he said.

Macron added that it was true that Brexit negotiations had been complex and lengthy, but said: "That fact must not be exploited by those very people who are the cause of this problem, who got us into the Brexit situation and who now tell us that Europe is going from crisis to crisis".

At a news conference at the conclusion of the summit, Mrs May struck a defiant tone, saying she had always expected negotiating "tactics" to be used during the course of the Brexit process. Both sides want to show a tough face.

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