Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is being given no wiggle-room by the European Council. Picture: REUTERS/TOBY MELVILLE
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is being given no wiggle-room by the European Council. Picture: REUTERS/TOBY MELVILLE

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is set to announce that she will not “change tack” on Brexit, even after her proposals were rejected by European leaders, the BBC reported. The pound dropped on the news.

May is expected to make a statement at 1.45pm in London, a day after EU leaders used a summit in Salzburg, Austria to tell her that her approach won’t work. May was left looking isolated after leaders told her to rework her plans, and set her a deadline of next month to come back with new ideas.

The prime minister said in March she wouldn’t be "buffeted" by calls to walk away from talks, but as the tone of negotiations deteriorated on Thursday, she hinted that she might have changed her mind.

She ruled out extending the negotiating timetable and said the country is also preparing for a no-deal outcome. Britain is due to leave the bloc in March next year, with or without a deal. If there’s no divorce agreement, there will be no transition — the two-year grace period designed to prevent the country and its businesses tumbling into a legal limbo.

Danger ahead

May is going into a politically perilous period as her Conservatives prepare for their annual conference at the end of this month. She’s facing increasing calls to dump her vision of what the future trading relationship should be, and speculation is rife that some in her party will try to oust her. She doesn’t have a majority in parliament and lawmakers are lining up to threaten that if she doesn’t change tack, they will vote against the final deal she brings back.

EU leaders, who had been expected to offer May words of support at the summit, instead handed ammunition to May’s critics at home.

May says her plan, known as the Chequers proposal, is the only viable option as it is the only blueprint that can avoid a hard border emerging on Ireland, protect businesses with intricate European supply chains, and deliver on the referendum result.

The EU says she is trying to cherry-pick, and that it would risk unraveling the single market — the system of rules and standards that allows trade, services and people to move freely across borders.

“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work,” European Council resident Donald Tusk said. “Not least because it risks undermining the single market.”

Tory topple

Brexit campaigner Richard Tice welcomed May's change of tone on Brexit but warned that unless she abandoned her Brexit plan, Conservative Party lawmakers would try to topple her.

"The tone was good and people will celebrate that. She is telling the EU that they shouldn't treat her like that," Tice said, adding that she should chuck her so-called Chequers proposals on Brexit.

"She could make life so much easier for herself by just chucking Chequers and saying we are going to a world trade deal. She would then be the toast of all Brexiteers, most of the Conservative Party and even moderate Remainers." If she doesn't ditch Chequers, Tice said, she will be challenged by her own party. 

Bloomberg, Reuters