It’s been a rough few days for Theresa May and her plans for Brexit.
At a summit of European Union leaders in Salzburg, the Prime Minister was told by fellow EU leaders that her Chequers blueprint “will not work” - an unexpected push-back that could prove fatal for her vision and her premiership.
But May’s humiliation was complete when European Council president Donald Tusk took to Instagram to post this message on his stories:
Sharing a photograph of himself helping the prime minister to a cupcake at a buffet at the Salzburg summit, Tusk added the comment: “A piece of cake, perhaps? Sorry, no cherries.”
The none-too-subtle reference is to the idea that May’s plan looks to ‘cherry-pick’ the best aspects of EU membership while also quitting the bloc.
The former Tory MP and adviser to ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis, Stewart Jackson, blasted Tusk for “appalling and cheap conduct”.
“Nasty and mean-spirited to an ally and our PM: a woman serving her country in very difficult circumstances,” he said on Twitter.
It wasn’t the only awkward moment for May.
As EU leaders met for the ‘family photo’, a Reuters photograph caught the PM looking isolated from the rest - capturing the mood precisely.
And, to make matters worse, May was forced to stand outside the meeting after the Prime Ministers, Presidents and Chancellors returned to discuss her plan.
While she embraced Emmanuel Macron as he returned to the room, it seemed to make little difference: the French President later told a press conference leaders of the Brexit campaign who told British voters it would be easy were “liars” and leaving the EU was “not without costs”.
Meanwhile, commentators were suggesting dark clouds were gathering over May, who returns to the United Kingdom ahead of a Tory Party conference where speculation over her future will mount.
Former Brexit secretary David Davis told HuffPost UK that 40 “rock solid” Tory rebels are ready to vote May’s Chequers deal down if it ever makes it to a parliamentary vote.
Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s former director of communications, speculated on the calculations taking place in Downing Street.
Despite all of this, May remained upbeat: she said the UK will “shortly” come forward with new proposals on the so-called Irish “backstop” arrangements for implementation at the border if no long-term solution is found.
The next major milestone in the Brexit process is fast approaching, with the October 18 summit labelled a “moment of truth” by Tusk.