EU leaders insist Brexit deal is still possible

European Council President Donald Tusk speaks to the media at the conclusion of the summit of leaders of the EU in Salzburg, Austria. Picture: Getty Images
European Council President Donald Tusk speaks to the media at the conclusion of the summit of leaders of the EU in Salzburg, Austria. Picture: Getty Images
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EU leaders have insisted a Brexit deal is still possible following the bitter fall-out from Theresa May’s appearance at the Salzburg summit.

The Prime Minister warned she was prepared to walk away from the negotiations after her Chequers plan was brusquely rebuffed by leaders of the remaining 27 member states.

The strength of the reaction to her treatment in the UK - where it was widely seen as a “humiliation” - appeared to catch Brussels by surprise.

In a conciliatory statement on Friday, European Council president Donald Tusk said the leaders assembled in Austria had treated her proposals with “all seriousness” and regarded them as a “step in the right direction”.

READ MORE: Brexit talks reach impasse as Theresa May issues EU with ultimatum

However he suggested they had been taken aback by the “surprisingly tough and in fact uncompromising” approach she had adopted when she addressed them over dinner on Wednesday.

“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 UK and a true admirer of PM May,” he said.

Earlier Irish premier Leo Varadkar, who reportedly clashed with Mrs May in Salzburg over the issue of the border with Northern Ireland, acknowledged negotiations had hit a “rocky patch” but said they would keep working for a deal.

The Prime Minister won backing from many Tory MPs for her tough, televised statement on Friday in which she denounced her treatment by the other 27 leaders and demanded the UK was treated with “respect”.

With barely controlled anger, she warned that she would never accept any agreement on the Irish border issue which led to the “break up of my country” and made clear she would walk away rather than accept a “bad deal”.

READ MORE: Theresa May criticises EU leaders after Brexit rejection

Her intervention appeared to have won her some breathing space ahead of the Tory Party conference in Birmingham.

But while Brexiteer MPs lauded her for standing up to the EU there were also fresh calls to abandon her Chequers plan - which many Tories believe would keep Britain too close to the EU - for a simple Canada-style free trade deal.

However any respite may be short-lived as former Brexit secretary David Davis - who quit over Chequers and is promising to publish his own plan for leaving - is due to appear at a Leave Means Leave rally in Bolton on Saturday along with former Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon slams ‘dreadful’ Theresa May Brexit statement

Meanwhile The Daily Telegraph reported that senior ministers will use a Cabinet meeting on Monday to push Mrs May to drop Chequers and come up with a “Plan B” alternative.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt were said to be among those pressing for a change of direction.

Ms Mordaunt said on Friday she believed voters “still want a deal but (were) content to go without one”.

For Labour, Jeremy Corbyn said Mrs May had shown herself “incapable of delivering a good Brexit deal”, and shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer accused her of being “in denial”.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said the Chequers plan was “dead as a dodo, killed in London by Tory fundamentalists”, while Green MP Caroline Lucas said Mrs May’s response “pathetic, painful and petulant”.