Theresa May facing 'last call' to spell out Britain's Brexit plans, warns EU Council chief

Posted On: 
29th June 2018

European Council president Donald Tusk has issued a "last call" to Theresa May to spell out Britain's plan to leave the European Union or risk crashing out of the bloc.

The European Council president warned that the 'most difficult tasks are still unresolved'
Credit: 
PA

Mrs May had at one point been expected to use this week's European Council summit to present Britain's fleshed-out proposals for leaving the EU.

But the UK has yet to publish a crucial White Paper on Brexit, with the PM gathering her Cabinet at her Chequers country retreat next week in a bid to thrash out Britain's final position on key issues including future customs ties with the bloc.

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Speaking at the Brussels summit, Mr Tusk demanded more detail from the British side as a matter of urgency.

"The EU27 has taken note of what has been achieved so far," he said.

"However, there is a great deal of work ahead, and the most difficult tasks are still unresolved.

"If we want to reach a deal in October we need quick progress. This is the last call to lay the cards on the table."

His comments came as the EU Council agreed a joint statement urging "realistic and workable" proposals in the UK's upcoming White Paper, and urged member states to step up their planning for a 'no deal' Brexit.

"The European council renews its call upon member states, union institutions and all stakeholders to step up their work on preparedness at all levels and for all outcomes," the document said.

Meanwhile it has been reported that British hopes of remaining in the single market for goods have already been given a frosty reception by senior EU figures.

According to Business Insider, the UK is pushing for the plan as part of efforts to keep trade disruption to a minimum and avoid imposing a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

But a source close to the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier heaped scorn on the proposal, telling BI: "We would say no to that. The UK is not going to get that.

"We've always been clear that it's about protecting the integrity of the single market. As soon as you give the UK the single market for goods, the market begins to unravel. That's where we are."

Mr Barnier earlier warned of "huge and serious divergence" with the UK on its Brexit position, while Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar slammed the lack of detail from the British side so far.

He warned: "All of us want there to be a deal. We need a deal. Europe needs a deal, Britain needs a deal too."

Pressed on those comments today, a spokesperson for Mrs May said: "We've never said anything other than it's very challenging.

"We've put forward our position, which is that we don't want to see a hard border returning. We've also put forward a backstop proposal and there will be a white paper next month.

"We will continue to talk to the EU and to the Taoiseach and others about it."