In a dramatic retaliation to her Salzburg humiliation, the Prime Minister blasted Brussels for a lack of “respect” and making the “fundamental mistake” of underestimating her resolve to keep her Chequers deal alive.
Mrs May made a rare live address from No10’s state dining room to vow she will not abandon her soft Brexit offer — despite it being shredded by EU leaders in Austria.
Instead she insisted the ball was now in their court to make Chequers work or face No Deal.
Sterling later fell by more than one per cent, but Brussels said a compromise was still possible.
The PM, seething at her Salzburg slapdown the day before, challenged the EU to come up with a counter proposal to her Chequers offer.
In a steely statement from No10, Mrs May hit out: “Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect. The UK expects the same.”
She accused the EU of making a “fundamental mistake” if it thought she would agree to any deal that threatened the UK’s integrity.
The PM warned: “The EU should be clear: I will not overturn the result of the referendum.
"Nor will I break up my country. As I told EU leaders, neither side should demand the unacceptable of the other.”
After being ambushed in Austria on Thursday, Mrs May said talks were on ice until Brussels engaged on a compromise.
She promised alternatives to unblock the Irish border issue ahead of a summit on October 18 — described as the “moment of truth” by European Council President Donald Tusk.
But she stood by her Chequers blueprint as “the best way” to get a deal that protects Northern Ireland.
She blamed the EU side for failing to explain its objections to Chequers.
Mrs May said: “At this late stage in the negotiations, it is not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and new proposals.”
An EU suggestion of keeping Northern Ireland in the Customs Union and the rest of the UK out was branded “unacceptable” by Mrs May.
She added: “We will never agree to it. It would mean breaking up our country”.
She pushed the EU for an alternative or face a No Deal.
But in a huge U-turn, Mrs May vowed that all three million EU citizens can stay in the UK if talks collapse — regardless of Brussels’ commitments to our expats.
Two years ago the PM came under fire for refusing to make such a unilateral commitment – saying it would weaken the UK’s negotiating position.
Last night Mr Tusk insisted that Brussels had studied her Chequers plan “in all seriousness”.
And he said No10 had been given a full explanation for its rejection.
Mr Tusk added: “The results of our analysis have been known to the British side in every detail for many weeks.”
He also attacked Mrs May’s pitch at Salzburg as “surprisingly tough”.
But he was convinced “a compromise, good for all, is still possible”.
Mr Tusk added: “I say these words as a close friend of the UK and a true admirer of PM May.”
France’s Emmanuel Macron outed himself as the key assassin of Mrs May’s Chequers plan at Salzburg.
His aides briefed Paris media that during a lunch meeting of the 27 leaders without Mrs May on Thursday he talked round the others into sticking the knife into her.
Mr Macron is quoted in Le Figaro newspaper as telling them: “We must be clear now. It is useless to say to each other that the proposals do not work at all, and to say outside that things are not going so badly.
"Europe is often criticised for going too slowly, we have to go faster.”
The UK’s biggest allies at the lunch, Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki and Dutch Premier Mark Rutte, were said to be uncomfortable at further destabilising talks.
But their dissent was quickly quashed as Spain’s PM Pedro Sanchez backed Macron, and others followed suit.
A No10 source told The Sun: “The PM is livid about how the leaders treated her in Salzburg. It has been a big moment for her.
“We have been nothing but courteous and professional to them for a year.
“The PM wants them to know that either Brussels grows up and starts acting like adults or there really will be no deal.”
In a sly put-down on Thursday, Mr Tusk posted a selfie of him and Mrs May with a cake, captioned: “Sorry, no cherries”.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said Mr Tusk’s post “didn’t feel like very statesman-like behaviour”.
The Sun Says: Theresa's belter
It was blindingly obvious then that Brussels would not negotiate in good faith. On Thursday they proved it, with their squalid ambush and the infantile taunting online.
Mrs May has always treated EU leaders with respect. But these bullying egomaniacs, these swaggering posers in designer suits, lack the common decency to respect Britain, our Prime Minister and our democratic choice.
So yesterday, on behalf of her position and the nation, she bit back. It was the best speech of her life. And her arguments were as unassailable as her welcome new tone was hostile.
We CANNOT remain part of the EU’s institutions — and make a mockery of the referendum verdict. We WILL NOT split the UK. We WILL NOT annul the Brexit vote because they don’t like it.
We CANNOT keep making sacrifices and proposing solutions only for Brussels to reject them without any sensible counter offer. That’s not a negotiation.
So, as Mrs May says, it’s stalemate.
If, as The Sun expects, their response is more of the same, she should tell them this: “Here’s one final offer… not Chequers, but a simple free trade deal, plus security co-operation, that respects our referendum and your principles.
“And since Michel Barnier now accepts that technology CAN police borders, let’s use it between Northern Ireland and Ireland.” If they spurn that, we’ll know they aren’t serious.
We can leave with no deal, bank our £39billion divorce payment and mitigate short-term damage by slashing taxes.
We will lure businesses and talent from the continent and embrace those already here, as Mrs May has promised.
And we will be free from the clutches of the Brussels club and the posturing pygmies running it.
Mr Raab added: “There’s a big question mark about whether the EU is really serious about the substance of these negotiations.”
Last night Mr Tusk insisted that it had been an “innocent gesture” about the EU’s insistence that Britain can not pick and choose the best bits of EU membership.
Tory Brexiteers and Irish allies also rallied behind Mrs May yesterday.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “The Prime Minister is right to stand firm in the face of disrespectful, intransigent and disgraceful behaviour by the European Union. The United Kingdom will not be treated in such a manner.”
Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg welcomed the PM’s “strong and forthright” tone, but said it was time for her to ditch Chequers and go for a simple Canada-style free trade agreement with the EU.
Meanwhile, a blame game erupted over how the PM was blindsided at Salzburg — given some advisers expected her to be greeted with warm words.
Brexiteers said aide Olly Robbins, who drew up the Chequers plan, should be sacked for the “duff” intelligence.
A senior Eurosceptic told The Sun: “He needs shooting. He has humiliated her.”
Iain Duncan Smith added: “It raises serious questions over the advice she has been getting.”
But Whitehall insiders claimed that No10 spin chiefs had ignored Mr Robbins’ warnings that Salzburg could go wrong.
Q and A
Is Chequers finished?
Unless Brussels agrees to a compromise over the Irish border, Chequers is all but dead in its current form.
Downing Street believes the PM has already made enough concessions and it’s now up to Brussels to move.
A concession by Brussels could revive Chequers in some form and allow a “fudge” at EU summits in October and November.
Why don’t we just walk away?
Theresa May could end talks and say Britain is leaving in March without a deal, saving £39billion and falling back on tariffs set by the World Trade Organisation.
But it is said to terrify the PM as well as business chiefs given the likely chaos to their supply chains and logjams at the border.
Is there another option?
Arch Brexiteers want Britain to pursue a Canada-style free trade deal with Brussels.
But Downing Street doesn’t believe it solves the Irish border issue and business doesn’t like it because it means Britain will sit outside the customs union.
Europhile MPs want a Norway-style option, keeping Britain in the European Economic Area.
But this signs the UK up to the single market and means we have to accept unlimited EU immigration.
Is a second referendum likely?
Theresa May has categorically ruled one out.
But it could happen if the Speaker allows a “Meaningful Vote” on Brexit to be amended in the Commons by MPs — giving them the chance to force a new poll on the Government.
Could we have a General Election next year?
The horror show at Salzburg cut the odds of a snap poll, but it will need a catastrophic chain of events to trigger one.
Theresa May would have to lose a confidence vote in the Commons and see a majority of MPs vote to go to the polls.
Labour insist a General Election is their No1 objective, which is enough to make Tory MPs think twice before bringing down their leader.
Prime Minister's speech in full
YESTERDAY, I was in Salzburg for talks with European leaders.
I’ve always said these negotiations would be tough — and were always bound to be toughest in the final straight.
While both sides want a deal, we have to face up to the fact that — despite the progress we’ve made — there are two big issues where we remain a long way apart.
The first is our economic relationship after we have left. Here, the EU is still only offering us two options.
The first would involve the UK staying in the European Economic Area and a customs union with the EU.
In plain English, this means we’d still have to abide by EU rules, uncontrolled immigration would continue and we couldn’t do the trade deals we want with other countries.
That would make a mockery of the referendum we had two years ago.
The second option would be a basic free trade agreement for Great Britain that would introduce checks at the Great Britain/EU border.
But even worse, Northern Ireland would effectively remain in the Customs Union and parts of the Single Market, permanently separated economically from the rest of the UK by a border down the Irish Sea.
Parliament has already, unanimously, rejected this idea.
Creating any form of customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would not respect that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the UK, in line with the principle of consent, as set out in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.
It is something I will never agree to — indeed it is something no British Prime Minister would ever agree to. If the EU believe I will, they are making a fundamental mistake.
Let's be clear: I'll not break up my country
Anything which fails to respect the referendum or which effectively divides our country in two would be a bad deal and I have always said no deal is better than a bad deal.
But I have also been clear that the best outcome is for the UK to leave with a deal.
That is why, following months of intensive work, we proposed a third option for future economic relationships, based on frictionless trade in goods.
That is the best way to protect jobs and avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, while respecting the referendum and the integrity of the UK.
Yesterday Donald Tusk said our proposals would undermine the single market. He didn’t explain how in any detail or make any counter- proposal. So we are at an impasse.
The second issue is linked to the first.
We both agree the Withdrawal Agreement needs to include a backstop to ensure that if there’s a delay in implementing our relationship, there still won’t be a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
But the EU proposes to achieve this by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the Customs Union.
As I’ve said, that is unacceptable. We will never agree to it. It would mean breaking up our country.
We will set out our alternative that preserves the integrity of the UK.
And it will be in line with the commitments we made in December — including the commitment that no new regulatory barriers should be created between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK unless the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree.
As I told EU leaders, neither side should demand the unacceptable of the other.
We cannot accept anything that threatens the integrity of our union, just as they cannot accept anything that threatens the integrity of theirs.
We cannot accept anything that does not respect the referendum, just as they cannot accept anything that isn’t in the interest of their citizens.
Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect.
The UK expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it.
At this late stage in the negotiations, it’s not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and counter proposals.
So we now need to hear what the EU’s real issues are and what their alternative is.
Until we do, we cannot make progress. In the meantime, we must and will continue the work of preparing ourselves for No Deal.
In particular, I want to clarify two issues. First, there are over three million EU citizens in the UK who’ll be worried about what the outcome of yesterday’s summit means for their future.
Even in the event of No Deal your rights will be protected. You are our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues. We want you to stay.
Second, I want to reassure the people of Northern Ireland that in the event of No Deal we’ll do everything to prevent a hard border.
The referendum was the largest democratic exercise this country has ever undergone.
To deny its legitimacy or frustrate its result threatens public trust in our democracy.
For over two years I’ve worked day and night to deliver a deal that sees the UK leave the EU.
I have worked to bring people with me even when that has not always seemed possible.
No one wants a good deal more than me. But the EU should be clear: I’ll not overturn the result of the referendum.
Nor will I break up my country. We need serious engagement on resolving the problems in the negotiations. We stand ready.
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