May short of ‘workable Brexit solutions’ – EU

The EU has criticised Theresa May’s latest speech on Brexit, describing it as “long on aspirations” but “short on workable solutions”.

It also claims she addressed her comments mainly at a “domestic audience, trying to bridge the gaps between the two poles of the debate on Brexit in the UK”.

In a document drawn up by the Council of the EU General Secretariat, seen by Sky News, the Prime Minister’s speech on Friday is described as containing “a change in tone, but not in substance”.

On “options for customs co-operation”, it says the address “only rehashed the Lancaster House speech of January 2017”.

It describes the PM’s comments as being “highly ambiguous on the nature of the future economic partnership”.

However, it says that “in contrast to previous speeches, the tone was positive and measured”.

Mrs May delivered her speech at Mansion House in the City of London

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A Whitehall source told Sky News the document was a “highly misleading summary” containing “very poor analysis” that had been “prepared at pace”.

In her address, Mrs May stood firm in calling for a different relationship to that which Canada, Norway and Turkey have with the EU, declaring: “If this is cherry picking, then every trade agreement is cherry picking.”

But the EU accuses her of setting out a “new model based on a double cherry-picking: taking in selective elements of EU membership and of third country trade agreements”.

It does find favourable aspects, though, such as a recognition that “trade-offs between sovereignty and market access must be made”.

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It praises Mrs May for admitting that “leaving the EU has a cost for the UK” and that “Brexit is complex”.

On the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, it notes a “welcome recognition of the UK’s responsibility for the problem and a reaffirmed commitment to the Good Friday Agreement”.

But it says there was “no solution proposed”, and claims the UK’s objectives on the matter are “mutually contradictory”.

It lists them as: “No Single Market/no customs union; no border on the island of Ireland, no border down the Irish Sea.”

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In general, it says her speech was “more a domestic communication battle than (something) proposing real substance and ways forward”.

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A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the EU said it would not comment on leaks.

But a Whitehall source told Sky News the document was a “highly misleading summary which was clearly prepared at pace, contains very poor analysis, and does not reflect the detailed conversations we are having with European partners”.

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