Theresa May shared a light moment with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at today’s crunch summit to determine how long Britain will have to stay in the EU.
As the other EU leaders were taking their places at the table in Brussels, Merkel approached May and showed her an iPad. The Prime Minister pointed at it as her German counterpart smiled before they both burst into laughter.
Mrs Merkel then showed the tablet to two colleagues, who gave more muted reactions, as did European Council President Donald Tusk.
Body language expert Judi James suggested May’s ‘pantomime over-reaction’ showed her desire to gain approval from the German leader.
Meanwhile, it was reported the two leaders were laughing at a side by side photograph of them taking questions in their respective parliaments this afternoon – both wearing a similar cobalt blue jacket.
Mrs May shared a joke with German chancellor Angela Merkel tonight, ahead of the PM’s pitch to EU leaders in which she is asking for a delay to Brexit until June 30 at the latest
James told MailOnline: ‘May is looking quite skittish here before she takes her seat, jumping up to greet other people or sitting to straighten her pens and desk accoutrements in a way that suggests an overwhelming desire for order and control, but she leaps up the fastest when Merkel approaches to share some image or message on her tablet screen.
‘May’s almost pantomime response suggests she is keen to gain approval and even friendship from the German leader as her over-congruent reaction to what she is being shown looks otherwise out of character.
‘It’s the kind of response you see when the boss brings photos of their pet Labra-doodle or their kids to work and employees trying to curry favour respond with expressions and coos of delight and awe.’
Responding to the video, BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted this evening: ‘IPAD NEWS! the gag was apparently a side by side pic of May and Merkel taking questions in their own parliaments this afternoon, wearing the same colour of jacket. #brexitbants, kind of.’
James suggested the episode showed the two leaders sharing a ‘moment of exaggerated bonding’.
‘As she looks at the screen May raises her brows and opens her mouth in a gesture of surprised delight,’ she said.
‘Her response goes down well as Merkel tilts her head and looks up to evaluate and enjoy May’s reaction.
‘May takes her rituals one step further by pointing at the screen before straightening up with her mouth open.
‘The rapport builds here as Merkel mirrors May’s expression, leading May to up things a notch by stabbing her finger at the screen and leaning back and roaring with laughter, which again receives the seal of approval from Merkel’s mirrored laughter.’
The two national leaders, both dressed in cobalt blue, appeared captivated by something on Mrs Merkel’s iPad at the start of the meeting in Brussels
They then shared the joke with European Council president Donald Tusk, who saw the funny side. He has suggested that the UK face a Brexit delay of up to a year
James said the ‘act of exaggerated bonding’ contrasted with the men who Merkel showed the screen to.
‘A couple of them look distinctly under-whelmed while Tusk just looks faintly awkward,’ she added.
It was a rare moment of joviality for Mrs May, who faces the humiliating prospect of EU leaders forcing a delay of up to a year on the UK.
Mrs May is currently begging them for one that runs until June 30 or until a deal can get through Parliament.
This evening she is giving a pitch on her plans – before dining alone while the 27 other leaders discuss her request.
They are almost certain to reject it and force a delay lasting between December 31 this year and March 31, 2020.
Mrs Merkel wants a gentler, but longer extension, into 2020 – reflecting splits among the EU27 that are set to delay a ruling long into tonight.
French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured at the council meeting today) has adopted a far tougher line on the delay than Mrs Merkel
She said: ‘What is important is that any extension enables us to leave at the point at which we ratify our Withdrawal Agreement. I know many people will be frustrated that the summit is taking place at all. The UK should have left by now’.
President Macron has adopted a far tougher stance by calling for regular ‘behaviour reviews’ of the UK, a bonfire of its EU powers and posts and a ‘Boris-proof’ lock preventing a new Tory leader causing havoc within the EU if she stands down.
The French president appeared to wink today as he arrived in the Belgian capital after he had been urged not to ‘humiliate’ the Prime Minister.
He also raised the spectre of a no-deal Brexit, possibly on Friday.
‘We must understand today why this request, what is the political project which justifies it and what are the clear proposals?’ he said.
‘It is 34 months since the British referendum, and the key for us is that we are able to pursue the European project in a coherent way.
‘I believe deeply that we are carrying out a European rebirth, and I don’t want the subject of Brexit to get in the way of that.’
Before taking off for Belgium a frustrated Mrs May blasted MPs for not voting through her EU divorce deal after Tory Eurosceptic Henry Smith accusing her of throwing away £1billion-a-month in payment to Brussels if she accepts a longer Article 50 extension tonight.
Mrs May hit back: ‘We could have been outside the EU by now if we’d managed to get the deal through Parliament and I’m continuing to work to deliver Brexit’.
But with talks with Labour set to start again tomorrow, Mrs May and Jeremy Corbyn dodged the subject completely during Prime Minister’s Questions.