Brexit news latest: Emmanuel Macron puts heat on Theresa May to give more ground on EU deal
Emmanuel Macron today led European Union moves to force Theresa May to make fresh concessions on Brexit.
Amid signs that some other EU leaders could be ready to break away from Brussels’ negotiating stance, the French president appealed for unity to defend the “clear principles” regarding the “integrity of the single market”.His call appeared to deal a fresh blow to Mrs May’s Chequers Brexit blueprint, which would keep close trading ties on goods but not services. A senior French government official stated that the EU and UK had so far failed to find a “landing point” for a future trade deal.
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, used Instagram to repeat warnings that Britain cannot “cherry-pick” from EU trade arrangements to get a favourable Brexit deal. Posting a picture of himself helping Mrs May to a cupcake at a buffet at the Salzburg EU summit, Mr Tusk commented: “A piece of cake, perhaps? Sorry, no cherries.”
Mr Macron also stood firm on the EU’s demands over a “backstop” arrangement for the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which the Government and the Democratic Unionist Party have said is unacceptable.With a growing revolt at Westminster over the Chequers plan, after loyalist former minister Sir Mike Penning became the latest MP to lambast it, the Prime Minister appeared to be walking an increasingly precarious political tightrope. Dutch premier Mark Rutte, who has been more positive towards the UK, said the Brexit negotiations were “a balancing act”. Mr Macron dug in just hours after Mrs May sought to persuade EU leaders to shift position at a late-night dinner. The French president welcomed Mrs May’s proposals, adding: “We have progress”, but also laid out clear cross-Channel dividing lines.“We have very clear principles regarding the integrity of the single market and regarding precisely the Irish border,” he said as he arrived for the second day of the informal talks. “We need a UK proposal precisely preserving this backstop in the framework of a withdrawal agreement.” France, Germany and Brussels are believed to be taking the least flexible approach to breaking the Brexit deadlock, amid signs of splits emerging with other European capitals. Mr Rutte said: “My expectation is that we will not come to an agreement today but that we will prepare a landing ground for a Brexit agreement towards October/November — it’s still possible to get a good deal for both the EU and the UK.”Austrian prime minister Sebastian Kurz said: “Both sides are aware that they will only reach a solution if they move towards each other.” The nationalist prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, claimed there was a shift towards a softer negotiating stance from the EU. However, Irish premier Leo Varadkar piled pressure on Mrs May by stating that Dublin was preparing for “no deal”. He said reaching agreement on the Irish border was “difficult to do” and: “Time is running short.” The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warned that the UK will be stuck in the slow lane, even if Mrs May gets a “soft” Brexit deal minimising trade disruption. It said a “no deal” risks wiping up to three per cent, around £60 billion, off GDP over two years in a worst case scenario.
Ton van Grinsven
Business Development Director
Customs Support Group