The President of the European Council has echoed the sentiments of many EU members by saying this afternoon that the British Government’s plans for a trade after Brexit, undermine the EU’s single market.
Mr Tusk was speaking at the end of an EU summit in Salzburg where leaders of the 27 remaining member states discussed Brexit.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for the EU to be more flexible on the issue of the Irish border and “back” her serious proposals. Speaking at an informal press conference this afternoon, Mrs May said that “a lot of hard work to be done”, as she reiterated that she would not accept the EU’s “backstop” plan to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland, and said the UK would shortly be bringing forward its own proposals.
However, as it currently stands, the British Government and the EU have no mutual agreement on the issues of how to avoid new checks on the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border.
The EU leaders had been discussing the UK’s plans, which were presented to them by Mrs May on Wednesday evening.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “substantial progress” was needed on the UK’s withdrawal agreement by the next European Council meeting in October, with “still a large piece of work” on the separate issue of future trade relations with the UK.
Mrs May’s proposal for the UK to sign up to a common rule book for trade in goods and a combined customs territory with the EU is unpopular with many in her own party, who believe it will erode British sovereignty and is not what people voted for when they backed Brexit in the 2016 referendum.
In a speech in Munich, former Brexit secretary David Davis labelled the Chequers package a “non-starter”, saying no “self-respecting democracy” would accept it.
With so much division on all sides, it now seems impossible for the British Government to continue along the path of its Chequers proposal.