Brexit: May urges EU leaders to consider ‘serious’ UK plans

Theresa May has urged EU leaders to focus their minds on getting a Brexit deal in the next two months, saying negotiations will not be extended.

At a dinner in Salzburg, she told her 27 counterparts her priorities are maintaining economic ties and ensuring promises to Northern Ireland are kept.

There are suggestions the UK will put forward new ideas for regulatory checks to address the current Irish deadlock.

It comes as the PM insisted the EU must also rethink its stance on the border.

In her speech, Mrs May stressed her “serious” proposals for future co-operation between the UK and EU would ensure a “shared close relationship”.

The informal gathering of EU leaders in the Austrian city was the first opportunity the prime minister has had to make the case for her Chequers blueprint to other leaders collectively.

In Mrs May’s absence on Thursday, the 27 other EU leaders will discuss issues including the UK’s future relationship with the EU and how to resolve the problems around the Irish border.

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Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, two EU leaders said they hoped the UK would hold another referendum on Brexit, in the hope of reversing the 2016 result.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said most of his counterparts would like the “almost impossible” to happen.

Andrej Babis, the Czech Republic‘s prime minister, added he hoped the British people might change their minds.

Campaign group People’s Vote is also calling for another referendum, arguing there should be a choice for voters between leaving with, or without, a deal or staying on current terms.

Negotiations over the terms of the UK’s exit and future relations are at a critical stage, with about six months to go before the UK is scheduled to leave on 29 March 2019.

‘Brexit cliff-edge’
Mrs May’s proposal for the UK to sign up to a common rule book for trade in goods and a combined customs territory is unpopular with many in her own party, who believe it will erode British sovereignty and is not what people voted for when they backed Brexit in the 2016 poll.

In a further sign of how difficult it might be for her to persuade the UK parliament to back the plans, former minister Sir Mike Penning, who worked under Mrs May at the Home Office and backed her for Conservative leader, told the Daily Telegraph they were “as dead as a dodo” and that he could not back them.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said Mrs May must delay Brexit beyond next March if there is not a detailed agreement on future trading arrangements.

Ms Sturgeon told the BBC that it would be completely reckless to leave the EU without establishing a future relationship.

She said that taking the UK off the “Brexit cliff edge” without an agreement “would be the most irresponsible thing any PM has done in a very, very long time”.

What did May tell EU leaders?