Salzburg Summit – No Deal ?

An informal meeting of EU leaders was held in Salzburg on 19-20 September 2018 to discuss internal security, migration and Brexit.

It was hosted by Sebastian Kurz, Chancellor of Austria, which currently holds the Presidency of the European Council. Donald Tusk, President of the European council chaired the meeting and together with Jean-Claude Juncker President of the European Commission represented the EU.

Prior to the meeting, Donald Tusk made the following statement on Brexit negotiations:

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The Brexit negotiations are entering their decisive phase. Various scenarios are still possible today, but I would like to stress that some of Prime Minister May’s proposals from Chequers indicate a positive evolution in the UK’s approach as well as a will to minimise the negative effects of Brexit. By this I mean, among other things, the readiness to cooperate closely in the area of security and foreign policy. On other issues, such as the Irish question, or the framework for economic cooperation, the UK’s proposals will need to be reworked and further negotiated. Today there is perhaps more hope, but there is surely less and less time. Therefore, every day that is left, we must use for talks. I would like to finalise them still this autumn. This is why, at tomorrow’s meeting of the twenty-seven, I will propose calling an additional summit around mid-November.
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During dinner on the 19 September, the Prime Minister was graciously allowed 10 minutes to present her plan, agreed by the cabinet and known as the Chequers Deal, to the other 27 EU Leaders. They will not engage directly in negotiations with the PM in order to preserve the role of Michel Barnier as their chief negotiator.

The meeting ended with a working lunch on the 20 September, in an EU27 format to discuss Brexit. This was an opportunity to review progress in the talks with the UK and to discuss the way forward.

Donald Tusk made a statement, at the end of the meeting, during which he included the following comment on Brexit negotiations:

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At our EU27 working lunch today we had a good discussion on Brexit, which once again reconfirmed our full unity. Let me highlight three points.

First, we reconfirmed that there will be no Withdrawal Agreement without a solid, operational and legally binding Irish backstop. And we continue to fully support Michel Barnier in his efforts to find such a model.

Second, we agreed to have a joint political declaration that provides as much clarity as possible on the future relations. Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic cooperation will not work. Not least because it risks undermining the Single Market.

Third, we also discussed the timetable for further negotiations. The moment of truth for Brexit negotiations will be the October European Council. In October we expect maximum progress and results in the Brexit talks. Then we will decide whether conditions are there to call an extraordinary summit in November to finalise and formalise the deal.
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Theresa May appealed directly to her European counterparts to drop unacceptable Brexit demands that she warned could rip Britain apart, urging the bloc to respond in kind to her serious and workable plan.

We both agree that there can be no withdrawal agreement with no legally operative backstop. But that backstop cannot divide the UK into two customs territories, and we will be bringing forward our own proposals shortly

So with the rejection by the EU of Theresa May’s Chequers Plan it is now looking more likely for the UK to leave the EU without any agreed plan for the future relationship between the UK and the EU. It would also mean any formal Withdrawal Agreement between the 2 sides which would also be abandoned.

The hardline approach being taken by the EU indicates the desire to punish the UK for leaving in an attempt to dissuade other members from following the same path.

Leader after leader lined up to reject the key elements of the Chequers plan and there appears to have been a coordinated “ambush” on Theresa May by fellow leaders to brief against her at the end of the conference. Donald Tusk even mocking Theresa May with a quip concerning “cherries and cake” on his instagram account.