The EU still does not know ‘what Britain really wants’ from Brexit negotiations, Angela Merel complained today.
The German leader insisted business needed ‘clarity’ on the shape of the future relationship – but said the discussion in the UK was ‘not so clear’.
She also reiterated that Britain will not be allowed to cherry-pick parts of the EU single market – seemingly ruling out a crucial part of Theresa May’s Chequers blueprint.
The German leader insisted business needed ‘clarity’ on the shape of the future relationship – but said the discussion in the UK was ‘not so clear’
The intervention, in a speech to a German industry conference, will cause frustration in Downing Street amid deadlock in talks.
Mrs May was humiliated by EU leaders in Salzburg last week when they brutally dismissed her Chequers plan.
EU council president Donald Tusk said the proposals – which would effectively see the UK stay in the single market for goods but not services – ‘will not work’.
The bloc insists that it is not possible to get the benefits of part of the single market without accepting all of its rules – including freedom of movement and European law.
The rejection threatened to throw Mrs May into crisis as she was already facing a massive mutiny from Tory MPs who want her to ditch the blueprint in favour of a more limited Canada-style agreement.
Meanwhile, Labour is engaged in a bitter row over whether to back a referendum that could see Brexit cancelled altogether.
Mrs Merkel appeared to refer to the deep divisions in her speech to industry leaders in Berlin today.
Warning that much hard work was still needed to find a path to a deal over the next six to eight weeks, she said: ‘The economy needs clarity… What is important is what Britain really wants – the discussion there is not so clear.’
The shadow Brexit secretary was given an ovation by delegates in Liverpool after using his speech to deliver a pointed rebuke to John McDonnell.
The shadow chancellor caused fury among pro-EU members yesterday by playing down the prospects of a referendum – and insisting that even if one happened it would not offer the public the chance to reverse Brexit altogether.
The remarks sparked an extraordinary public squabble as Sir Keir contradicted his colleague.
And in his conference speech this afternoon, Sir Keir doubled down on the row, diverting from his official script to say: ‘If we need to break the impasse, Labour campaigning for a public vote must be an option.
Earlier, Sir Keir had risked fuelling tensions with Mr McDonnell – Jeremy Corbyn’s closest ally – by jibing that he had initially misrepresented the situation because he was ‘up early’ and badly briefed.
Labour conference is due to vote later on a motion that would keep the option of a referendum ‘on the table’.
But after a fraught five-hour meeting of officials on Sunday night the text was fudged to avoid binding the hands of the leadership.
Separately, Lord Hague warned today that allies of Mrs May who are plotting a snap election must be drunk or ill.
The Tory former leader voiced alarm at claims that Downing Street aides are seriously considering the ‘nonsensical’ idea in the wake of the PM’s humiliation at the hands of EU leaders.
He said anyone responding to deadlock with Brussels and Conservative infighting by deciding to call an election has ‘probably had too much alcohol’ or ‘might even need medical help’.
Theresa May (pictured in Downing Street yesterday) was humiliated by EU leaders in Salzburg last week when they brutally dismissed her Chequers plan