Theresa May’s stance that trade must come first was met with incredulity by EU officials
Theresa May is living in another galaxy and it looks like the Warp Core is about to breach! An article recently published in The Times states that the Brexit negotiations began with a blazing row as Brussels flatly rejected Theresa May’s negotiating position and accused the prime minister of living in a “parallel reality”.
The other 27 EU member states took just four minutes to agree a hardline stance on Brexit at a summit meeting in Brussels before Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission, and Michel Barnier, the chief European Union Brexit negotiator, rounded on the prime minister.
They told EU leaders that May had used a meeting with them on Wednesday night to demand that a “detailed outline” of a future free trade deal be in place before the UK agrees to pay any money to Brussels as part of the Brexit divorce deal. An EU diplomat said: “This was a rather incredible demand. It seemed as if it came from a parallel reality.”
This morning May dismissed claims she was in a “different galaxy” and brushed off calls for the UK to settle its Brexit bill before embarking on trade talks.
Juncker warned yesterday that May’s approach would lead to an “early crash”, with Britain leaving the EU without a deal.
In an eight-page document outlining their position, the other 27 countries said the EU would “prepare itself to be able to handle the situation if the negotiations were to fail”. The guidelines also include offering Northern Ireland automatic EU membership should it join the Irish republic — a move seen as provocative in London — and giving Spain a veto over Gibraltar’s future relationship with the bloc.
Juncker and Barnier told leaders that the Wednesday dinner at 10 Downing Street had also revealed huge differences over plans to recognise the rights of British citizens and EU nationals in each other’s countries.
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said a “serious offer” was needed on migrant rights from the UK before trade talks could begin.
May said this morning that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” and added that there is “much more that we agree on” around the EU negotiating table.
She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “What they (EU leaders) are very clear about is, yes, they do want to start discussions about money.
“I’m very clear that at the end of the negotiations we need to be clear not just about the Brexit arrangement – the exit, how we withdraw – but also what our future relationship is going to be.”
One blogger describes May as “possibly the worst example of power dressing of all time; the space suit jacket was a difficult one to get out of my head: It just has ‘Stylist Sabotage’ written all over it.”
An EU diplomat told The Sunday Times: “The UK’s position is miles apart, both on their financial obligations and on the EU citizens’ rights. The UK government simply wants to create a new category of ‘former EU citizens’ in their migration law, but our position is that we must go much further than that.”
The prime minister’s stance that trade must come first was met with incredulity by EU officials, who said her chief EU sherpa, Oliver Robbins, had already agreed that the methodology for agreeing the Brexit bill would be ironed out first — along with the rights of EU citizens in Britain and the issue of the Irish border.
“She took a firm position against something we thought we had agreed,” a diplomatic source said. “It was completely unreal.” The source said the prime minister’s views on the financial settlement “border on the delusional”.
Over dinner, Juncker slapped down May by pulling out a copy of the EU-Canada trade deal, a 2,000-page document that took nearly a decade to negotiate, and recommended that the prime minister study its complexity.
Juncker’s aides said he then called Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, and complained that May appeared unaware of issues communicated to her staff. According to one of Juncker’s aides, he told Merkel: “It went very badly. She is in a different galaxy. Based on the meeting, no deal is much more likely than finding agreement.”
May told the Andrew Marr Show this morning: “I’m not in a different galaxy. What this shows is that there are going to be times when these negotiations are going to be tough.”
Juncker’s comments prompted Merkel to lambast British “illusions” about Brexit in a speech to her parliament on Thursday. May responded that EU countries were “ganging up” on Britain.
David Davis, the Brexit secretary, last night attacked those who were seeking to undermine the negotiations, calling them “the most complex the UK has faced in our lifetimes”.