Theresa May calls on 'disrespectful' EU leaders to help her break Brexit deadlock

Posted On: 
21st September 2018

Theresa May has accused EU leaders of failing to show her "respect" as she demanded they do more to help break the Brexit deadlock.

Theresa May spoke from inside Downing Street today.
PA Images

The Prime Minister said the negotiations had now reached an "impasse" after European Council president Donald Tusk dismissed the plan agreed by the Cabinet at Chequers in July without an explanation why.

In an unusual move, Mrs May chose to make a statement from inside 10 Downing Street rejecting the EU's wish for Britain to remain in the European Economic Area.

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She said: "In plain English, this would mean we’d still have to abide by all the EU rules, uncontrolled immigration from the EU would continue and we couldn’t do the trade deals we want with other countries. That would make a mockery of the referendum we had two years ago."

On the EU's demand that Northern Ireland effectively remain the single market and customs union in order to avoid the return of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, the Prime Minister said: "It is something I will never agree to - indeed, in my judgement it is something no British Prime Minister would ever agree to. If the EU believe I will, they are making a fundamental mistake.

"Anything which fails to respect the referendum or which effectively divides our country in two would be a bad deal and I have always said no deal is better than a bad deal."

Mrs May said neither side in the negotiations "should demand the unacceptable of the other", but insisted it was now up to the EU to compromise if there is to be any chance of a deal being struck at a crucial summit in Brussels next month.

She said: "Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect. The UK expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it.

"At this late stage in the negotiations, it is not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and counter proposals.

"So we now need to hear from the EU what the real issues are and what their alternative is so that we can discuss them. Until we do, we cannot make progress."

The Prime Minister, who also pledged that the 3 million EU citizens in the UK will have their rights protected if there is no deal, added: "The referendum was the largest democratic exercise this country has ever undergone. To deny its legitimacy or frustrate its result threatens public trust in our democracy.

"That is why for over two years I have worked day and night to deliver a deal that sees the UK leave the EU.

"I have worked to bring people with me even when that has not always seemed possible. No one wants a good deal more than me.

"But the EU should be clear: I will not overturn the result of the referendum. Nor will I break up my country. We need serious engagement on resolving the two big problems in the negotiations. We stand ready."

Under the Prime Minister's blueprint, agreed by the Cabinet at Chequers in July, the UK would agree to a "common rule book" on goods, while collecting tariffs on behalf of Brussels in a bid to keep the Northern Irish border open.

But effectively killing off her plan at the end of a special summit in Salzburg yesterday, Mr Tusk said: "Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal the suggested framework for economic cooperation will not work, not least because it risks undermining the single market."

Mr Tusk also poured cold water on suggestions that talks could be extended into November, with a special summit convened to hammer out the final points of a deal.