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‘Robust’ May-Juncker dispute dominates EU summit



Theresa May’s dispute with the European Commission president has dominated a summit in Brussels, as she promised to keep on seeking “legal reassurances” about her Brexit deal.

The prime minister admitted she had a “robust” discussion with Jean-Claude Juncker, captured by the cameras as leaders sat down for private talks.

Mrs May was seen walking up and confronting Mr Juncker, with a lip-reader telling Sky News she pointedly asked him: “What did you call me?” and accused him of calling her “nebulous”.

 Theresa May speaks during a press conference on December 14, 2018 in Brussels


May holds ‘robust’ talks with Juncker over Irish backstop

The word was used by Mr Juncker in a midnight news conference hours before – as he demanded British leaders say “what they want instead of asking us to say what we want”.


Watch: May and Junker face off in Brussels

Urging Mrs May to explain how she wanted to approach dealing with MPs’ concerns about the Northern Irish backstop, he said: “This debate is sometimes nebulous and we would like clarification.”

Mr Juncker addressed a clamour of questions about it as the summit wound up today, joking “we were not dancing”.

The Northern Ireland backstop is fast becoming the most famous part of the Withdrawal Agreement - and for good reason.


Backstop: What it is and why it’s controversial

He insisted he “did not refer to her, but the state of the debate in the UK” and promised that by the end of their talks “she was kissing me”.

Calling for a cooling of tensions, Mr Juncker added: “We have to bring down the temperature.”

Speaking alongside him, European Council president Donald Tusk said he treats Mrs May with “the greatest respect” as he called out British MPs for not doing the same.

He added: “We have treated Prime Minister May with a much greater empathy and respect than some British MPs.”

Father Christmas has a present for Michael Gove - mostly abuse, accompanied by a toy unicorn


Angry Santa confronts Michael Gove

Earlier, Mrs May said she had got a promise from Mr Juncker he had only been talking about “a general level of debate” – not her personally.

She left for London without the legal assurances the backstop will not last indefinitely many Brexiteer Tory MPs were hoping for.

But she has until 21 January – the deadline Mrs May set herself for the Brexit deal to be voted on in parliament – to convince them.

“We will be working expeditiously over the coming days to seek those further assurances that I believe MPs need,” the prime minister said.

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