On Wednesday and Thursday this week, European Union heads of state are gathering for an informal meeting to discuss internal security, migration and Brexit.
When asked Thursday about the British prime minister’s 10-minute speech the night before, he simply said: “It was interesting”.
Prime Minister Theresa May went to dine with European leaders this week, to pitch her compromise proposals for a soft departure from the union and its trading bloc, but she ran into a wall of criticism on Thursday, hearing her counterparts declare her Brexit plan unworkable.
The leaders of Lithuania and Slovakia said after the dinner that “no progress” had been made.
They’ve spent two days in Salzburg trying to do just that, but with no clear solution in sight, the sides have tried to ramp up pressure on each other.
Kurz said that failing to reach a deal “would be hard for Europe but it would be bad for the UK”.
If an agreement is to be sealed by March 29, May and her European Union partners must find an acceptable answer in coming weeks so parliaments have enough time to ratify the agreement.
The three largest opposition parties, Labour, the Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats, have all publicly said they will oppose the prime minister’s plans.
Any later, and there would be a risk of failing to get it ratified by both parliaments before Brexit Day on March 29.
But in a swipe at his new ally Mr Rees-Mogg, Sir Mike said: “I don’t need to be led by an old Etonian who uses language which most of my constituency including me don’t even know”.
Sir Mike, 60, is a working-class Tory who served as a Guardsman in the Army in Northern Ireland, Kenya and Germany, and was also a firefighter before becoming a spin doctor and senior adviser to William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith.
Reports have suggested the former may be fudged as part of a political declaration on future ties.
May’s plan involves keeping parts of the single market after Britain leaves the European Union but she has been told it can not be cherry-picked.
The EU insists on its own “legally operationally backstop” – what it describes as an insurance policy to prevent the return of physical infrastructure on the border in the event no other solution can be found. So that if a Brexit deal does finally emerge later this autumn, the perception will be that it was hard fought and hard won. There is so far no full exit agreement and some rebels in May’s Conservative Party have threatened to vote down a deal if she clinches one.
But at a press conference in which she appeared visibly angry, Mrs May said the United Kingdom would “shortly” be coming forward with new proposals for the backstop at the border.
On Tuesday Barnier said the bloc was prepared to be flexible, explaining that he wanted to “de-dramatise” the border issue. “We are ready for that eventuality, should it occur”. “It took place in June of 2016”. But EU leaders clearly were not feeling nostalgic.
But he added that after the Salzburg summit, he’s feeling a “little more optimistic” about the possibility the sides will come to an agreement. These will be fundamentally unchanged but may be politically more palatable, notably on Northern Ireland.
The French said May’s proposals “are not acceptable as they stand, particularly in the economic realm” because they “don’t respect the integrity of the single market”.
On Tuesday German carmaker BMW said it planned to bring forward its annual maintenance shutdown period for its British Mini plant, in case there is no deal.