The President of the European Council has described the Chequers agreement as unworkable at an EU summit.
Speaking at an EU summit in Salzburg, Tusk said the agreement risked undermining the EU’s single market and “will not work”.
It was yet another blow for the contentious deal and May now faces a massive political challenge in forming a consensus behind a reworked Brexit model. Earlier in September, the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier said he was “strongly opposed” to the UK’s current Brexit model.
Donald Tusk’s forceful rejection of Theresa May's Chequers plan seems to sharply raise the possibility that Brexit talks will break down https://t.co/bDE41zsukv
— POLITICO Europe (@POLITICOEurope) September 20, 2018
May insisted the deal reached at Chequers remains the “only serious credible” means of avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland.
The UK Prime Minister told reporters she and Tusk had a “frank bilateral” with Tusk after the summit-closing press conference. “Concerns have been raised and I want to know what those concerns are,” she said.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) September 20, 2018
Key EU leaders continue to reject the Brexit model set out in the Chequers agreement
French President Emmanuel Macron also slammed May’s Brexit proposal and said he expected a whole new proposal to be put forward in October.
“The Brexit teaches us something – and I completely respect British sovereignty when I say that – it showed that those who say that we can easily live without Europe, that everything is going to be alright, and that it’s going to bring in a lot of money are liars,” he said.
Macron says leading Brexit campaigners are 'liars' – https://t.co/9Okrdumt24
— AndrewSparrow (@AndrewSparrow) September 20, 2018
“We all agreed on this today, the proposals in their current state are not acceptable, especially on the economic side of it. The Chequers plan cannot be take it or leave it,” Macron said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was more sanguine about the current model but said there would need to be “substantial progress” made in October to justify a special summit in November to sign off on Brexit.
May in fight to save Chequers Brexit plan after Salzburg ambush https://t.co/A4dyDRY63N
— The Guardian (@guardian) September 20, 2018
May playing down criticism of Chequers model as a negotiating tactic
After acknowledging there is “a lot of hard work to be done”, May conceded that the UK was continuing to prepare for a scenario where no deal can be reached before the deadline of 29 March 2019. She again rejected the EU’s ‘backstop’ plan to avoid a hard border with Northern Ireland.
May also tried to paint the hardline rhetoric on her Brexit deal as a negotiating tactic on the EU’s part. “I have always said these negotiations were going to be tough,” she told reporters. “And at various stages of these negotiations, tactics would be used as part of those negotiations.”
The Chequers agreement had proposed keeping the UK inside the EU’s single market for goods but not services. The EU has continued to reject this idea, however, and it may now be back to the drawing board for May’s fractious government.
Photo: Arno Mikkor (EU2017EE)