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A PM in need of committed allies; WESTERN MAIL.

THERE was never any possibility that EU leaders were going to welcome Theresa May at the Salzburg summit with a round of applause and a signed declaration that they would give a 100% endorsement of her Chequers blueprint for the post-Brexit future.

Future gatherings are planned for October and November, and this was always going to be but one stage in a difficult negotiating process.

However, things have gone worse than the PM would have hoped.

Donald Tusk, the head of the EU Council, could not have been clearer when he said: "The suggested framework for economic cooperation will not work."

Economic cooperation is precisely what the Chequers proposals are about. Mrs May has staked her political life on a model that, in its present form, the EU will not accept.

Another shock came when Mike Penning, a former firefighter who served as a loyal minister in a succession of difficult briefs, announced Chequers is as "dead as a dodo".

EU leaders want the PM to move in one direction; Brexiteers in her own party press for her to go the opposite way; neither group likes Chequers. It is hard to see how a modified version that might get the backing of Brussels would get through the Commons without support from Labour.

All this comes ahead of a Conservative conference where Brexiteers will take other opportunity to try and push the PM into supporting their model of Brexit. Mrs May will aim to leave Birmingham without having made any significant concessions or being hit with a vote of no confidence.

She can hope that EU leaders will recognise that her proposals are the best they can expect and that once they have huffed and puffed for the benefit of domestic audiences they will instruct Michel Barnier to nail down a deal post haste.

French President Emmanuel Macron gave the most graphic display of indignation, saying Brexit had demonstrated that "those who said you can easily do without Europe, that it will all go very well, that it is easy and there will be lots of money, are liars".

For Mrs May and the Chequers vision to survive she needs her supporters to work with passion and cunning at least equal to that on display in Brexiteer ranks. At present, she cuts a lonely figure in the EU in need of reinforcements.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 21, 2018
Words:391
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