Blow for Theresa May as Emmanuel Macron says Chequers plan risks 'unravelling' EU
Theresa May's hopes of winning EU backing for her Brexit strategy have been dealt a major blow after Emmanuel Macron suggested they risked "unravelling" the bloc.
The French president's remarks came just a month after the Prime Minister held one-on-one talks with him in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock.
Critics said they left the Brexit strategy agreed by the Cabinet at Chequers last month "dead in the water".
Under the agreement, Britain would maintain close economic ties with Europe by effectively remaining in the single market for goods, but not for services.
The arrangement would also see the UK collect tariffs on goods destined for the EU on behalf of Brussels.
But in his annual foreign policy speech, Mr Macron said: "France wants to maintain a strong, special relationship with London but not if the cost is the unravelling of the European Union."
He added that the Brexit vote was "a sovereign choice, which we must respect, but it cannot come at the expense of the European Union’s integrity”.
Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said: "The French president has made it plain that the Chequers plan leaves Britain half in, half out of the EU and that breaches his red lines. Rather than flog this dead horse we should return to efforts to secure a Canada-style free trade deal."
Labour MP Ian Murray, of the pro-EU People’s Vote campaign, said: "It appears that, with less than two months remaining before the crucial EU Council summit, Theresa May’s Chequers proposal is dead in the water.
"It is filled with contradictions and can clearly satisfy neither her own MPs nor our European negotiating partners. The cake-and-eat Brexit that was promised simply can’t be delivered.
"Persisting with the Chequers car crash, and praying for a last-minute change of heart from the EU, is not a credible negotiating strategy. It simply increases the chances of a disastrous no deal Brexit.
“With the Brexit negotiations having hit the buffers, and Parliament completely deadlocked, the only way out of this mess is through a People’s Vote on the final deal."