Backlash at Macron after he gloats that Britain is learning not to listen to Brexit ‘liars’

Theresa May’s allies launched a ferocious fightback today after the PM was plunged into crisis by EU leaders in Salzburg.

The Prime Minister is vowing defiance despite being brutally ambushed at a summit when counterparts condemned her Chequers plan.

French president Emmanuel Macron sparked particular outrage when he gloated that turmoil in negotiations will teach Britons not to listen to ‘liars’ about how easy it would be to leave.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab led the response this afternoon, saying the bloc was mistaken if it thought it could bounce Mrs May into concessions.

‘She is the wrong PM to do that with,’ he said. 

He also lashed out at ‘dark mutterings’ in Brussels about ‘Northern Ireland being the price Britain will have to pay’ for leaving the bloc – a reference to demands for the province to stay under EU customs rules after Brexit. 

‘That is not going to happen,’ he told the BBC’s Politics Live. ‘Not with this PM, and not with this parliament.’ 

Mrs May is expected to make a statement this afternoon to underline her determination to carry on.

The high-stakes clashes with the EU threatened to destabilise Mrs May further ahead of an explosive Tory conference in just 10 days’ time where she could face an all-out mutiny from Eurosceptics over the Chequers plan.

Support for Mrs May’s stance in the Cabinet is said to be weakening, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid among those thought to be edging towards backing looser Canada-style links with the EU.

Mrs May looked deep in thought as she returned to Downing Street today after the summit 

Mrs May looked deep in thought as she returned to Downing Street today after the summit 

Mrs May looked deep in thought as she returned to Downing Street today after the summit 

At a press conference last night (pictured), Emmanuel Macron boasted that the tortuous negotiations were showing that voters should not heed politicians who say 'you can do easily without Europe'

At a press conference last night (pictured), Emmanuel Macron boasted that the tortuous negotiations were showing that voters should not heed politicians who say 'you can do easily without Europe'

At a press conference last night (pictured), Emmanuel Macron boasted that the tortuous negotiations were showing that voters should not heed politicians who say ‘you can do easily without Europe’

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured) led the response this afternoon, saying the bloc was mistaken if it thought it could bounce Mrs May into concessions

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured) led the response this afternoon, saying the bloc was mistaken if it thought it could bounce Mrs May into concessions

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured) led the response this afternoon, saying the bloc was mistaken if it thought it could bounce Mrs May into concessions

Mr Macron and Mrs May chatted happily together during the summit - but he then stuck the knife in to her Chequers blueprint

Mr Macron and Mrs May chatted happily together during the summit - but he then stuck the knife in to her Chequers blueprint

Mr Macron and Mrs May chatted happily together during the summit – but he then stuck the knife in to her Chequers blueprint

There are signs that the EU recognises that the jibes could have gone too far, with EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker saying the two sides have to be ‘careful’ about engaging with each other ‘like two loving hedgehogs’. 

Irish PM Leo Varadkar also stressed that he still believed there will be a deal, and suggested that elements of Mrs May’s Chequers plan could be included in a future trade package.  

But Mr Raab accused the EU of ‘yanking up the handbrake’ and leaving a ‘serious question mark’ about whether they were taking the talks seriously. 

He branded EU council president Donald TusK ‘unstatesmanlike’ for tweeting a picture of himself choosing cakes with Mrs May and the message, ‘Sorry, no cherries.’ 

‘We’ve been rebuffed on our plans without any coherent explanation as to why, there’s these sort of rather dogmatic pleas to the single market unity but our plans were very carefully crafted around that,’ he said. 

He added: ‘We’re going to hold our nerve, stay calm and keep negotiating in good faith. 

‘We’ve revved up the motor of these negotiations, I’ve been out there a lot more frequently to get motoring, to make progress and the EU have just yanked up the handbrake and for the negotiations to go forward they’re going to have to take their hand off the handbrake.’ 

He said Mrs May was ‘a very stoic, resilient character’.

The British retort reflected anger from both Brexiteers and Remainers at the sabre-rattling behaviour from leaders in Salzburg yesterday.

Tory former minister Stephen Crabb, a Remainer in the referendum, voiced anger at the way they had tried to ‘belittle’ the PM.

‘The manner in which they sought to belittle and put down the Prime Minister yesterday pushes people like me… into a position where we say the quicker we’re out of this circus, the better,’ he said. 

Conservative MP Hugo Swire said: ‘If this is a negotiating ploy by Macron, Merkel and Tusk, they have seriously overestimated Theresa May’s room to manoeuvre back in the UK.’

Ex-Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith said the EU leaders had behaved ‘appalling’ and had ‘got personal’.

‘Monsieur Macron is not only out of order, he’s completely wrong. The EU is doing their classic case of trying to bully the UK in a variety of ways into taking a different position,’ he told the Guardian.

‘The honest truth is I don’t get involved in his domestic politics and therefore he should butt out of ours. He has got enough problems at home himself, it’s time he sorted his own country out and stopped messing around with ours.

‘But it does open the door to remind people why so many voted to leave. They’re sick and tired of the dictatorial, bossy, lecturing nature of the European Union.’

In his press conference last night, Mr Macron said: ‘Brexit is the choice of the British people and it is a choice pushed by certain people who predicted easy solutions,’ he said in Salzburg,’ he said.

‘Brexit has shown us one thing – and I fully respect British sovereignty in saying this – it has demonstrated that those who said you can easily do without Europe, that it will all go very well, that it is easy and there will be lots of money, are liars.

Mr Macron (pictured with Mrs May at the summit) was among the leaders pushing for a tough line against the British position

Mr Macron (pictured with Mrs May at the summit) was among the leaders pushing for a tough line against the British position

Mr Macron (pictured with Mrs May at the summit) was among the leaders pushing for a tough line against the British position

Theresa May tried to put on a brave face after talks with EU leaders in Salzburg ended in acrimony. She is pictured with Jean-Claude Juncker (centre) and Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel (left)

Theresa May tried to put on a brave face after talks with EU leaders in Salzburg ended in acrimony. She is pictured with Jean-Claude Juncker (centre) and Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel (left)

Theresa May tried to put on a brave face after talks with EU leaders in Salzburg ended in acrimony. She is pictured with Jean-Claude Juncker (centre) and Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel (left)

Mrs May (pictured in Salzburg) was left isolated at the summit after leaders turned on her Chequers plan for Brexit

Mrs May (pictured in Salzburg) was left isolated at the summit after leaders turned on her Chequers plan for Brexit

Mrs May (pictured in Salzburg) was left isolated at the summit after leaders turned on her Chequers plan for Brexit

‘This is all the more true because they left the next day, so they didn’t have to manage it.’ Mr Macron said it was true that Brexit negotiations had been complex and lengthy.

But he added: ‘That fact must not be exploited by those very people who are the cause of this problem, who got us into the Brexit situation and who now tell us that Europe is going from crisis to crisis.’

His claim the leaders of the Brexit campaign ‘left the next day’ after the vote appeared to confuse them with David Cameron, who quit as PM after calling on voters to back Remain. By contrast, Brexit supporters David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox were brought into the Cabinet.

Critics of May’s Brexit plan should ‘shut up for a bit’, says Davidson 

Critics of Theresa May’s Brexit deal should ‘shut up for a bit’, Ruth Davidson said today. 

The Scottish Tory leader played down the PM’s Brexit woes in Salzburg as she appealed for calm.

‘Of course it is concerning that we are still in a place where it is not clear to everybody what is going to happen and when and how it is going to happen,’ she told an event in Edinburgh organised by the Times Scotland. 

‘But I still think there will be a deal. 

‘I would really quite like some of my colleagues in Westminster to shut up for a bit. Put their sharp elbows and their personal ambition away and just let the Prime Minister do her job and go into bat for the country and bring home a deal.’

A visibly furious Mrs May rounded on EU leaders for hanging her out to dry yesterday as she battled to keep her Chequers Brexit plan alive in the face of fierce Tory criticism.

At her own press conference in Salzburg, Mrs May said she still believed a deal was possible, and offered a fresh concession on Northern Ireland – but acknowledged there was ‘a lot of hard work to be done’.

EU chief Donald Tusk said the other 27 leaders ‘all agreed’ that the complex plans at the heart of the Chequers deal ‘will not work’. 

It forced Mrs May to declare she was closer than ever to walking away without a deal.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire tried to soothe the tensions today, saying Mrs May was determined not to do the ‘easy’ thing by caving into EU demands. 

‘It is a negotiation. Should we be surprised that the EU has taken a tough stance at this stage in the negotiation?’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson also appealed for calm, urging critics of Mrs May’s approach to ‘shut up for a bit’. 

‘Of course it is concerning that we are still in a place where it is not clear to everybody what is going to happen and when and how it is going to happen. But I still think there will be a deal,’ she told an event in Edinburgh organised by the Times Scotland. 

‘I would really quite like some of my colleagues in Westminster to shut up for a bit. Put their sharp elbows and their personal ambition away and just let the Prime Minister do her job and go into bat for the country and bring home a deal.’

Mr Juncker also seemed to accept that the attacks on Mrs May might have gone too far.

He likened the bloc and Britain to ‘two loving hedgehogs’.

‘We have to be careful, like two loving hedgehogs,’ Mr Juncker told Austrian newspapers.

Mrs May arrived at the back entrance of No10 today after the bruising gathering in Salzburg

Mrs May arrived at the back entrance of No10 today after the bruising gathering in Salzburg

Mrs May arrived at the back entrance of No10 today after the bruising gathering in Salzburg

‘When two hedgehogs hug each other, you have to be careful that there will be no scratches.’ 

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said last night that Britain was heading for a no-deal Brexit if the EU refused to soften its position on the Irish border.

He told Newsnight the government would not drop its Chequers Plan despite the brutal rejection of it.

Mr Grayling said: ‘We are in the midst of a negotiation where people are setting out robust, firm positions – and this is often the way with the European Union. They build up, there’s tough language and actually a deal is done at the last. And I’m still confident that we will reach agreement.’

He added: ‘We have put forward the only proposal that we believe meets the UK’s red lines and also provides the right solution for the Irish border. At the moment what the European Union is asking in and around Northern Ireland is actually impossible for the UK to accept. If they stick with that position, there will be no deal.

‘No UK government, certainly not this one – and the Labour party have said the same – could possibly accept any border in the Irish sea, between northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.’ 

Where did it all go wrong? May’s string of blunders that turned Salzburg summit from triumph to disaster 

Theresa May was hoping that the Salzburg summit could be the moment that her political fortunes changed.

Downing Street went into the gathering with the expectation that EU leaders would, if not endorse, at least stop short of killing her Chequers plan.

That would have allowed her to go into a potentially explosive Conservative Party conference at the end of this month with a modicum of wind in her sails.

But in the event her compromise plan – pushed through at home at the cost of ministerial resignations and a simmering Tory mutiny – was brutally knifed by her counterparts.

The meltdown has raised fresh doubts about whether Mrs May can survive much longer in No10, and brought the prospect of the UK crashing out of the bloc a step closer.

And it appears tensions were heightened by a series of missteps by the PM and her aides as the drama unfolded.

A clearly shaken Theresa May insisted she was sticking to her Chequers plan at a press conference in Salzburg after the vicious attacks from EU leaders 

A clearly shaken Theresa May insisted she was sticking to her Chequers plan at a press conference in Salzburg after the vicious attacks from EU leaders 

A clearly shaken Theresa May insisted she was sticking to her Chequers plan at a press conference in Salzburg after the vicious attacks from EU leaders 

1. Tough talk before the summit

Mrs May set the tone on the eve of the Salzburg meeting by writing an article in Die Welt.

It warned the bloc against making ‘unacceptable’ demands on the Irish border, repeating her mantra that no UK PM could ever accept Northern Ireland being under a foreign customs jurisdiction.

The combative piece is said to have infuriated leaders by effectively rejecting Michel Barnier’s revised proposals on the border issue before they have even been published.

Mr Barnier has said he is looking to ‘improve’ his plan, and suggested that technology could minimise checks.

But he is still clear that the border should be between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.

2. After-dinner speech fell flat

EU leaders have been refusing to discuss Brexit directly with Mrs May all along – insisting that Mr Barnier is carrying out the negotiations for them.

There had been hopes that this summit would be the first occasion when there would be exchanges on the issue at national leader level.

However, those hopes were dashed when EU council president Donald Tusk declared that Mrs May would only get to deliver a 10-minute speech at the end of dinner.

By that time the leaders had already been through a scratchy four-hour debate on the migration crisis – a bigger concern than Brexit for many of them.

And Mrs May caused frustration among her weary audience by effectively reading out the Die Welt article.

‘That is not the way to command a tired group of leaders who are all bit sick of each other,’ one diplomat told The Times.

Over dinner on Wednesday night (pictured), gathered EU leaders were told that Britain would be prepared to walk away from the negotiating table if a deal was not struck quickly

Over dinner on Wednesday night (pictured), gathered EU leaders were told that Britain would be prepared to walk away from the negotiating table if a deal was not struck quickly

Over dinner on Wednesday night (pictured), gathered EU leaders were told that Britain would be prepared to walk away from the negotiating table if a deal was not struck quickly

3. Suspicions about plans to slash red tape

The situation was not helped by the emergence of a report that Trade Secretary Liam Fox was planning to slash food standards after Brexit to give the UK a competitive advantage and secure a US trade deal.

Although furiously denied by Dr Fox, the claim seems to have gained traction with delegations from EU countries and encouraged them to take a tough line.

One of the EU’s overriding fears is that the UK cutting red tape and lowing taxes could provide an advantage for businesses after we leave.

The situation was not helped by the emergence of a report that Trade Secretary Liam Fox was planning to slash food standards after Brexit to give the UK a competitive advantage and secure a US trade deal

The situation was not helped by the emergence of a report that Trade Secretary Liam Fox was planning to slash food standards after Brexit to give the UK a competitive advantage and secure a US trade deal

The situation was not helped by the emergence of a report that Trade Secretary Liam Fox was planning to slash food standards after Brexit to give the UK a competitive advantage and secure a US trade deal

4. The wrong kind of support

Britain’s allies, such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Poland, had been pushing for serious consideration of the Chequers blueprint.

France and Germany, meanwhile, had been urging a less accommodating approach that preserved the strict rules of the single market.

But the advocates for a deeper relationship seem to have been muted somewhat by the strident intervention of Hungarian premier Viktor Orban.

He condemned the determination of some EU leaders to ‘punish’ the UK for choosing to leave. However, Mr Orban is currently viewed as a pariah by other leaders after pushing the country to the political right.

Advocates for a deeper relationship with the UK seem to have been muted somewhat by the strident intervention of Hungarian premier Viktor Orban (pictured)

Advocates for a deeper relationship with the UK seem to have been muted somewhat by the strident intervention of Hungarian premier Viktor Orban (pictured)

Advocates for a deeper relationship with the UK seem to have been muted somewhat by the strident intervention of Hungarian premier Viktor Orban (pictured)

5. Delays to Irish border proposals

The EU had been expecting Britain to come forward with its own plans for the Irish border ‘backstop’ – the big sticking point in sealing the divorce package.

But having flatly rejected the EU’s thinking, Mrs May is then said to have delivered a difficult message in a meeting with Irish PM Leo Varadkar yesterday morning.

She apparently admitted that the UK’s rival ‘backstop’ blueprint would not be ready for the next EU summit in October.

The news caused anger as there had been lingering hopes that summit would see the Withdrawal Agreement to all intents and purposes settled.

That is said to have tipped the scales against Mrs May, raising questions about whether the UK was serious about negotiations.

After discussing the situation in private for two hours, the hard-line French and German approach won out and the brutal attack on Chequers was launched.

Theresa May held talks with Irish PM Leo Varadkar (pictured) before the summit entered its second day in Salburg this morning

Theresa May held talks with Irish PM Leo Varadkar (pictured) before the summit entered its second day in Salburg this morning

Theresa May held talks with Irish PM Leo Varadkar (pictured) before the summit entered its second day in Salburg this morning

 

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