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Theresa May in a Brexit crisis after her Salzburg humiliation

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Theresa May SalzburgSean Gallup/Getty Images

  • Theresa May has been humiliated by EU leaders who
    unanimously rejected her plans for Brexit.
  • European Council President Donald Tusk openly mocked
    her on social media.
  • Conservative MPs from all sides are now rounding on May
    in order to force her to drop her so-called Chequers
    plan.
  • The row comes ahead of an already difficult
    Conservative Party conference for the prime minister.

 

LONDON — Theresa May is in the midst of a serious crisis for her
leadership after European leaders roundly demolished the Chequers
plan she had spent the entire summer selling as the only credible
plan for Brexit.

Donald Tusk, European Council President, on Thursday said May’s idea
that the UK could stay in the single market for goods after
Brexit “will not work,” and had been rejected by leaders of all
27 EU member states.

He later openly mocked her on Instagram, with a
satirical post referring to the EU’s rejection
of her plans
to “cherry pick” parts of the European single market. He was
joined by French president Emmanuel Macron, who
dismissed
the entire Brexit project as being pursued by
“liars”.

It was a humiliating day for May, who had travelled to Salzburg,
Austria quietly confident of receiving encouraging feedback on
her Chequers proposals, after recent reports suggested Brussels
was ready to soften its Brexit position.

However, what she received from her European counterparts was
even more brutal than even the most pessimistic observers
had expected, as reflected in this morning’s front pages:

And it’s not just the British press who are circling around May.

MPs from all sides of the Brexit divide are ganging up on the
embattled prime minister and her corpse Brexit plan.

Cabinet minister Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Penny
Mordaunt, and Esther McVey all reportedly want May to forget
Chequers
and focus on a Canada-style free trade deal, while
former minister Philip Lee last night called for the Article 50
negotiation process to be extended.
  His
Remain-supporting Conservative colleague Anna Soubry compared
May’s Brexit plan to a dead parrot, while Iain Duncan Smith, a leading
pro-Brexit MP, said that 
Chequers “clearly isn’t going
to fly.” Meanwhile Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit
spokesperson, urged May to ditch her “her reckless red
lines.”

So where did it all go wrong?

It’s no surprise that the EU rejected May’s Chequers plan.
Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, said on
numerous occasions this summer that its core proposals — the UK
effectively stays in the single market for goods and collects EU
tariffs on Brussel’s behalf — were never going to be accepted.

A senior EU source told
Business Insider as early as June that May’s suggestions would
not fly. 

But 10 Downing Street was braced for a polite “not quite,”
accompanied by a “but we can make it work.” It was not prepared
for such a bruising slap down. It certainly was not prepared for
French President Emmanuel Macron to describe Brexit-supporting
politicians as “liars” in a pretty extraordinary press
conference. 

Clearly, May’s advisors — who she relies upon heavily for
intelligence and guidance — had misread the mood.

Plus, according to multiple reports, May really did not help her
cause when she sat down for dinner with European leaders. 

May reportedly decided to read out an opinion piece she wrote for
German newspaper Die Welt this week, in which she described the
EU’s Brexit proposals as unacceptable and not credible. That
didn’t go down well.

“She began to read out the article,” a diplomat told The Times.
“The article they had all already read. That is not the way to
command a tired group of leaders who are all a bit sick of each
other.”

The prime minister also opted to flat out reject the EU’s updated
proposals on how to deal with the thorny issue of the Irish
border, which also didn’t go down well with leaders around the
table. 

May also reportedly hadn’t been helped by a BI
story on Thursday
that revealed Liam Fox, her trade
secretary, was quietly plotting to use controversial government
powers to scrap EU food standards in preparation for a trade deal
with the US. 

Macron and other European leaders raised the article over the
dinner, according to The Times and other reports. 

Our Brexit Insider Facebook group is the best place for up-to-date news and analysis about Britain’s departure from the EU, direct from Business Insider’s political reporters. Join here.

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