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'Pure illusion': That was the EU's withering assessment of Theresa May's Brexit plan

The UK government is apparently now in agreement, but the EU says their plan is not possible.

European Council President Donald Tusk.
European Council President Donald Tusk.
Image: geert Vanden Wijngaert/PA Images

EU PRESIDENT DONALD Tusk has dismissed plans for post-Brexit relations, reportedly devised by the British government, as “based on pure illusion”.

Tusk said European Union leaders would push ahead with the release of their own red lines for the negotiations at a summit in March, whether Britain is ready or not.

Tusk’s comments came after Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet agreed Britain’s plans for the future relationship at a marathon meeting. She is due to unveil them in a speech next Friday.

One British minister, who was not present during Friday’s cabinet talks in London, said they had agreed that Britain would seek to align itself with European Union rules in certain sectors of the economy, but will retain the right to diverge in other areas.

“I’m glad that the UK government seems to be moving towards a more detailed position,” said Tusk, who will meet May in London the day before her speech.

“However if the media reports are correct I am afraid that the UK position today is based on pure illusion,” the European Council president told a press conference after a summit in Brussels.

“It looks like the cake philosophy is still alive,” he said, referring to earlier comments by British officials that they wanted to “have their cake and eat it” when it came to leaving the EU’s single market and enjoying its benefits.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker then wryly told the assembled reporters: “The president of the council was offering you the headline for tomorrow.”

Their comments capped a day of digs at the British side in the increasingly tense negotiations over Britain’s planned departure from the European Union in March 2019.

Juncker took a swipe at former British prime minister David Cameron, who opposed Juncker’s appointment in 2014 but lost his own job two years later after losing the Brexit referendum he had himself called.

“Where is Mr Cameron now?” the former Luxembourg premier said.

“I have heard some rumours that he is in a quiet, comfortable position,” quipped Tusk.

Juncker had earlier jokingly suggested that he could do the job better.

“I am not the British prime minister, it would be good for Britain if I was it, but I am not,” Juncker told a reporter who quizzed him on when he expected to get details of the outcome of the British cabinet meeting.

May is under pressure to set out more details of her position before talks get underway on the future partnership in April, with Brussels warning that Britain cannot have everything it wants.

The British Prime Minister gathered around a dozen of her senior Cabinet colleagues for eight hours of talks at her country retreat Chequers yesterday, in a bid to thrash out their considerable differences.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has called for a clean break with Brussels, and Finance Minister Philip Hammond, who favours closer ties, were among those present.

© – AFP 2018

Read: Explainer: Why UK Brexiteers have been told to ‘sod off’ away from the Good Friday Agreement >

Read: David Davis: Britain won’t be plunged into ‘Mad Max dystopian’ world after Brexit >

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