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U.K. PM won't capitulate to EU's demands in Brexit talks

By Sheetal Sukhija, Rio de Janeiro News
23 Sep 2018, 11:48 GMT+10

LONDON, U.K. - The U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is facing growing anger within the country and repeated rejection by the European Union - and yet, has continued to stand by her now-infamous Chequers Brexit plan. 

Despite facing high-level resignations after she first presented her Brexit proposal in Chequers, May has continued to defend her proposal.

However, after she presented her Chequers Brexit plan in Salzburg, Austria, the EU largely rejected the plan.

May also faced widespread humiliation at the summit after EU leaders clarified that they would not back her plan. 

Reacting to May's proposal, the French President Emmanuel Macron said that the "entire Brexit project was sold to the British people by liars, who immediately fled the stage - unwilling to see their project through."

However, upon her return from Salzburg, she delivered a fiery speech, calling on the EU to spell out its objections to her plan or propose an alternative.

In her speech, May even acknowledged that both the sides were still "a long way apart" on two big issues and pointed out that negotiations with the EU were "at an impasse."

'Respect the British position'

While demanding an alternative from the bloc, May also called for the EU's leaders to "respect" the British position and the result of the June 2016 referendum.

May said, "Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect. The U.K. expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it."

She added, "At this late stage in the negotiations, it is not acceptable to simply reject the other side's proposals without a detailed explanation and counterproposals."

May also pointed out that the fate of a post-Brexit economic relationship between the U.K. and EU still remained undecided.

Adding that the other key issue that was still unresolved was "the backstop for the Irish border, if there is a delay in implementing that relationship."

While both the sides want to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic - the U.K. and the EU are conflicted over the process to achieve the common goal.

May has proposed a plan in which the U.K. and EU share a "common rulebook" only for goods and not services - claiming that is the only credible way to avoid a hard border.

However, the EU has offered two options for strong long-term relationship - for the U.K. to stay in the European Economic Area and customs union or a basic free trade agreement.

May has rejected the options, calling them "unacceptable."

The British PM has also received the support of Arlene Foster, the leader of Northern Ireland's DUP in her rejection of EU's proposals.

Foster, whose support May relies on for a Commons majority in key votes has pointed out in a statement that the British Prime Minister was "right to stand firm in the face of disrespectful, intransigent and disgraceful behaviour by the European Union."

May's twin trouble: U.K. resists, EU rejects

Following May's speech, the British media largely focussed on the tone the Prime Minister had struck, with the eurosceptic Daily Express calling it "May’s finest hour."

It said in its report that May "was right to demand respect from the EU."

Even the Daily Mail, which described the EU's behaviour in Salzburg as "shabby," lauded the PM's speech.

It said May "confronted the arrogance of the EU elite with unyielding, level-headed reason."

Meanwhile, The Sun called May's speech "Brexit fightback."

However, London's pro-Brexit Daily Telegraph pointed out that May stands to face ministerial resignations next week if she fails to present an alternative to the “Chequers” Brexit plan.

Despite facing a soon approaching November deadline to reach a deal so that it can be ratified in time for U.K.'s March 29, 2019 exit from the EU - the British Prime Minister is facing intensified criticism domestically too. 

In a statement, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has stated that May's negotiating strategy "has been a disaster."

Corbyn said, "Political games from both the EU and our government need to end to avoid a no-deal scenario."

Meanwhile, some MPs appreciated her tough stance, but were still rejecting her Chequers plan.

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg welcomed May's "strong and forthright" speech but said she should abandon her Chequers plan,

Rees-Mogg suggested that the PM should put forward a Canada-style free trade agreement.

Further, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen too said that the PM needed to "chuck" the Chequers plan.

Bridgen, who previously called for a no-confidence vote on May, said in  reaction to her speech, "I think it could be a very, very rough ride for the prime minister when she finally realizes how unpopular her Chequers proposals are, not only within the EU, but within the membership of the Conservative Party out in the constituencies. It' s a grim time really."

However, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt pointed out, "If the EU’s view is that just by saying no to every proposal made by the United Kingdom, we will eventually capitulate and end up either with a Norway option or indeed staying in the EU... then they’ve profoundly misjudged he British people."

In an interview with BBC radio, Hunt added, "We may be polite, but we have a bottom line. And so they need to engage with us now in seriousness."

He added that Britain wanted a deal but would be able to withstand a no-deal Brexit.

Hunt pointed out, "Even in a situation where we aren’t able to come to an agreement, we would be trading on World Trade Organization terms. It would be bumpy, it would be difficult, but we would find a way to survive and prosper as a country. We’ve had far bigger challenges in our history.”

Meanwhile, responding to May's speech, the European Council President Donald Tusk said that the results of the EU’s analysis of the British Prime Minister's Chequers plan had been known to Britain for many weeks. 

He, however, said that a compromise with the U.K. over Brexit is "still possible."

Tusk said that he was a "true admirer" of the PM, but defended the EU's approach.

The EC President pointed out that May had been "tough" and "uncompromising" from the start.

He pointed out that EU leaders at the summit had treated her proposals with "all seriousness" and said they were a "step in the right direction."

Tusk added, "While understanding the logic of the negotiations, I remain convinced that a compromise, good for all, is still possible. I say these words as a close friend of the U.K. and a true admirer of PM May."

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