The reason May looked so shook yesterday at the Salzburg press conference is simply that she did not expect the rejection to come now or for them to be blunt to the point of humiliatingly rude. Macron positively rejoicing at the prospect of punishing Britain and Tusk claiming Chequers is dead, coupled with him mocking her crassly on Instagram do not signal diplomatic success for Olly Robbins.
The line this morning from Downing Street is, to coin a phrase, “nothing has changed”. This rejection is, they say, merely positioning in the final stages of a negotiation. Nobody else seems to agree. The EU is playing brutally hard ball and Downing Street has been hitherto firmly pragmatic. She needs to stick to what she told Nick Robinson at Chequers in the interview clip above. It is still possible that the EU will blink, Downing Street says they now have to. This is also the end of the line for can kicking by Theresa May, if she compromises beyond Chequers she will see more Cabinet resignations and the resignation of one of her top advisers. She can’t move politically on;
- ending free movement
- membership of the single market or the customs union
- ending the jurisdiction of the ECJ
- ending vast payments to the EU or paying for access to the single market
- integrity of Britain and Northern Ireland
Macron’s approval rating is on the floor, bashing les Anglais is a vote winner, Ireland’s Leo Varadkar has no intention of being seen to be soft on the British. It is possible that EU leaders will blink, however not probable unless the they really believe the UK will actually go ahead with no deal, no much needed £39 billion contribution to the EU budget. Just a cheery au revoir and auf wiedersehen…