Brexit: May says EU must come up with alternative proposals

Donald Tusk says UK stance at summit was ‘surprisingly tough and uncompromising’

British prime minister Theresa May has said that the EU must present alternative Brexit proposals after the UK's Chequers proposal was rejected during a summit in Salzburg.

The EU must now come up with an alternative to her Brexit proposals, British prime minister Theresa May has said.

The British PM said that talks had reached an impasse after the bloc’s leaders rejected her plans without explaining why. At a summit in Austria on Thursday, EU leaders said they would push for a Brexit deal next month but rejected Mrs May’s “Chequers” plan, saying she needs to give ground on trade and arrangements for the Border.

“It’s not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and counterproposals,” said Mrs May in a televised statement on Friday.

Britain’s prime minister Theresa May arrives for a family photo during the European Union leaders informal summit in Salzburg, Austria, on Thursday. Photograph: Reuters
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar takes the reins as he tries his hand at ploughing during a visit to the Irish 2018 National Ploughing Championship in Tullamore. Photograph: PA

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


Mrs May said the Brexit negotiations were at an impasse. She also said the best outcome from the negotiations was for her country to leave the bloc with a deal but exiting with no deal would be better than a bad one.

European Council president Donald Tusk struck a conciliatory note in responding to Mrs May’s statement on Friday evening.

The EU fully respected the UK’s decision in the Brexit referendum two years ago and was focused on finding a deal that would minimise the damage resulting from Brexit. “Also important to us is to create the best possible relations between the EU and the UK in the future.”

While some of Mrs May’s proposals from Chequers indicated a “positive evolution” in the UK’s approach, on the Irish question and the rules of economic cooperation, they will need to be “reworked and further negotiated”.

Mr Tusk described the UK stance just before and during this week’s Salzburg summit as “surprisingly tough and in fact uncompromising” but said he believed a compromise was still possible.

Under Mrs May’s Chequers proposal Britain would remain aligned with EU regulations for goods and agricultural products but not for services, gaining partial access to the single market without having to accept all its responsibilities such as the free movement of people.

The EU insists there can be no return to a hard border in Ireland, with Northern Ireland remaining in the bloc's customs union or effectively establishing a border in the Irish Sea if no alternative deal is reached. This arrangement is known as the backstop.

However, Mrs May said she could not agree to any deal which treated Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the United Kingdom.

“I will not overturn the result of the referendum nor will I break up my country,” she said. “We need serious engagement on resolving the two main problems in the negotiations and we stand ready.”

‘Rocky patch’

Earlier on Friday Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Brexit talks are entering a “rocky patch”. But he expressed confidence a deal will be ultimately brokered between the EU and the UK and said he was determined to avoid a cliff-edge scenario next March.

Mr Varadkar said there had been assertions in the British media in recent weeks that had been way off the mark and had led to false expectations in Britain as to the outcome.

Speaking from the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Co Offaly, he said “there was a sense created in the UK press that there was division around the EU table, among the EU 27. There is not. The EU is totally united, not just united behind Ireland but also united behind the single market.

“Perhaps the sense was created that prime minister May would come away with something more positive than occurred. I don’t think anyone in the EU or Ireland is to blame for that.

“Ultimately the problems that are created for Britain and the British government are being created as a consequence of Brexit and nobody in EU and Ireland is to blame for that.”

Britain’s Brexit secretary Dominic Raab claimed on Friday morning some EU leaders had shown unstatesmanlike behaviour in Salzburg.

“We’ve already compromised hugely with the Chequers proposals. We’ve engaged and we want to hear more about what the real critique of it is and we’ve got no other credible alternatives on the table,” Mr Raab told the BBC.

“What we’re not going to do is be salami sliced throughout this negotiation in a typical style that the EU engages in without movement on the other side.”


Many newspapers led their front pages with a Reuters picture showing Mrs May, dressed in a red jacket, standing apparently aloof and alone from a mass of suited male EU leaders.

Few diplomats expected any breakthrough from the Salzburg summit as the EU has repeatedly made clear that Mrs May must rework the Chequers proposals.

The tone of some of their comments, particularly the irony of European Council President Donald Tusk, left May exposed at home as she heads into what is expected to be a tumultuous annual conference of her Conservative Party on September 30th. – Agencies