EU summit marked by Brexit threats and ultimatums
22 September 2018
UK Prime Minister Theresa May suffered political humiliation in Salzburg, when European Union (EU) leaders rebuffed her appeal to give at least conditional support to her Chequers proposal for a “soft Brexit.”
May was given only 10 minutes to address EU heads of state Wednesday, after dinner at the informal summit, during which she appealed to her audience, “You are participants in our debate, not just observers.”
She said she had counted on at least supportive noises for her “serious and workable” plan, given that she was seeking to head off a potential challenge from the “hard-Brexit”/Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party. She warned that the UK could be torn apart—with respect to Northern Ireland and Scotland, as well as by social tensions; that if her government fell, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party could win a general election; and cited the potential damage to the EU itself of lost trade, investment and military support from the UK.
Instead, her address was met with silence and her implied threats were stonewalled, as the main players within the EU combined the next day to declare her proposals to be “unworkable.”
Prior to her dinner address, European Council President Donald Tusk had rejected May’s proposal for an EU-UK free trade area covering goods and agriculture, but not services, which she claimed would eliminate the need for tariffs and border controls, especially between Northern Ireland and the Republic in the south, an EU member state. The “suggested framework for economic cooperation will not work, not least because it risks undermining the single market,” Tusk said.
May was said variously to be “staggered,” “shocked”,…