Theresa May angrily confronts Jean-Claude Juncker after he publicly criticised her Brexit demands

https://video.consilium.europa.eu/en/webcasts
  • “You called me nebulous,” UK Prime Minister Theresa May seemed to tell the European Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, on Friday in a rare display of public anger.
  • May had arrived grim-faced at a meeting of European leaders in Brussels.
  • The EU has rejected her calls for the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to be tweaked.
  • May later described the exchange as a “robust discussion.”

LONDON – An angry-looking Theresa May confronted the European Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, on Friday after European Union leaders rejected her latest Brexit proposals and he publicly chastised the UK’s approach to negotiations.

Arriving at a meeting of European leaders in Brussels on Friday morning, May was filmed approaching Juncker and having what looked like a frosty exchange with the EU chief, in which she appeared to say, “You called me nebulous.” Juncker responded by putting his hand on May’s arm, as if to calm her down.

In a press conference later Friday, May described the exchange as a “robust discussion.”

Here’s the clip:

On Thursday evening, Juncker accused the UK prime minister of being “nebulous and imprecise” in Brexit talks after the EU refused to make changes to the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement.

May arrived in Brussels for the European Council summit wanting the EU to make legally binding reassurances that the “backstop” for avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland would be temporary.

The backstop, set to take effect in December 2020 if a new trade deal that protects the invisible Irish border isn’t ready, would keep the UK in the EU’s customs union and Northern Ireland in parts of the single market.

Brexiteers in Westminster are concerned that the backstop would keep the UK trapped in the EU’s customs union indefinitely or even forever, perhaps stuck with EU rules and a limited ability to influence them.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s government, also hates the latest terms of the backstop because it would create new border checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

EU leaders have insisted that the deal could not be renegotiated.

The prime minister looked somber when she arrived at the European Council on Friday morning, after failing to win changes to the deal that she had promised to hostile Brexiteers in Westminster.

Arlene Foster – the leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which is propping up the Conservative government – said that while the EU’s reaction was “unsurprising” it was up to May whether she would “stand up to them or whether she will roll over as has happened previously.”

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