Austrian EU presidency proposes special Brexit summit in November

Mae Love
September 20, 2018

She's got a ten-minute slot to make her Brexit pitch and convince the European Union leaders present to back her Chequers plan.

Tusk said some elements of the British plan, known as Chequers for the country house where it was hammered out in July "indicated positive evolution in the UK's approach".

Before the leaders gathered for the second day of the summit, Mrs May held talks with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadka, who said "time is running short" to reach a deal. "We will see whether an agreement is in reach at that moment based on a subjective evaluation which I will be submitting in reporting to the European leaders on the state of negotiations".

Despite the shortened time slot, the Prime Minister appeared optimistic about the meeting in Salzburg tomorrow - and insisted her Chequers plan was the only realistic Brexit plan in the eyes of the EU.

"We will, of course, not agree on every detail, but I hope that you will respond in kind".

They realise May is the only one who can seal a deal on Brexit and they do not want her to "go belly up", the diplomat said.

She may talk to other leaders in the margins of the summit in an effort to win backing for a plan which has met fierce resistance from within the ranks of her own Conservative Party.

"I think this is going to be at the core of the debate in Salzburg".

The Chequers blueprint - a "common rulebook" for trade in goods and "business-friendly facilitated customs arrangement" - is the only way to resolve the thorny issue of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, she said.

"It is profoundly in both sides' economic interest, it respects the integrity of the single market and, crucially, no-one else has come up with a proposal that could command cross-community support in Northern Ireland that is the only true foundation for stability there", she said.

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A British government source said London welcomed the EU's commitment to finding a solution to the border issue, but could not accept any proposal that would effectively move the customs frontier into the Irish Sea.

As part of the drive to set out the UK's position to the EU's leaders, she used an article in German newspaper Die Welt to explain her stance.

The French president, who is fighting a rearguard action against the rise of populism in Europe, said that blocking any attempt by the United Kingdom to pick and choose European Union membership had to be the priority in the dying days of the Brexit negotiations.

Mr Barnier said his latest proposal to break the deadlock would "de-dramatise" the controls that would be necessary in the event of the backstop coming into play.

"We can also clarify that most checks can take place away from the border at the company premises or in the markets".

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Wednesday he would propose holding an extraordinary summit in November in the hope of finding a Brexit deal by then.

Other European leaders pushed back against Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan on Wednesday, hours before she was due to try to sell it to them at a summit in Austria.

Mr Tusk added that leaders should work on "limiting the damage" caused by Brexit.

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, whose country is an advocate for offering May a counter-proposal in the coming weeks, said that avoiding cherry-picking by the British, while keeping them close, and avoiding a no deal scenario was a hard balancing act.

Mel Stride said that fear of a second poll would bring rebellious Brexiteers into line when MPs come to vote on any deal, while Tory Remainers would back Chequers to avoid a no-deal outcome.

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