Theresa May’s proposed Brexit agreement “will not work”, European Council President Donald Tusk has declared.
The prime minister attempted to persuade EU leaders in Salzburg last night that her Chequers plan was the “only credible” deal on the table.
But in a serious blow to May, Tusk told a press conference this afternoon that the UK’s proposal would not be accepted.
“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market,” he said.
French President Emmanuel Macron also savaged Brexiteers. “Those who explain that we can easily live without Europe, that everything is going to be alright, and that it’s going to bring a lot of money home are liars,” he said.
Despite Tusk potentially dealing a fatal blow to her plan, May insisted she was “continuing to work for a good deal”.
At home, May faces opposition to her plan from hardline Brexiteer Tories as many pro-Remain Tory MPs – complicating the chances of her being able to win a vote in parliament on the deal.
Jacob Rees-Mogg the leader of the backbench eurosceptic Tory ERG group, said it was time for the prime minister to accept her proposal was dead.
“I think Chequers now has no supporters at all. I doubt even the Downing Street cat is any longer backing the Chequers plan,” he said
May has proposed maintaining a “common rulebook” for goods with the EU after Brexit, keeping the same standards and regulations, in order to facilitate frictionless trade.
But under the plan, the UK would have different arrangements for services – a major part of the British economy.
The British government argues Brussels’ alternative plan, which would see Northern Ireland remain in the customs union until a new arrangement could be agreed, would effectively create a border between the North and the rest of the UK – something the PM has said she could not accept.
Time is running out for the UK and EU to agree a deal by the next full EU summit on October 18, raising the prospect of a no deal Brexit.
An special emergency meeting in November has been pencilled in to try and finalise a deal.
Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, said: “With just weeks to go until a deal must be struck, the prime minister cannot keep ignoring this reality. She needs to urgently drop her reckless red lines and put forward a credible plan for Brexit.”