With a single sentence, European Council president Donald Tusk put what may well prove to be the final nail in the coffin of Theresa May’s Chequers blueprint for Brexit.
At the end of a two-day summit in Salzburg, Mr Tusk said leaders of the remaining 27 EU states were united in agreement that her current proposals for future trading arrangements – involving a ‘common rulebook’ for goods but giving Parliament the power to diverge from EU rules – is not acceptable to them.
“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market,” he said.
Mr Tusk then took a more conciliatory tone and expressed hope a deal could be reached by November but the reality is Mrs May is now in a highly vulnerable position ahead of the looming Conservative Party conference.
The Prime Minister has already expended considerable political capital on her Chequers plan, with former Cabinet ministers Boris Johnson and David Davis among the most strident voices criticising the proposals for tying the UK’s future too closely to European Union decisions that this nation will have no say over.
Now she is facing another line of attack from the EU which wishes to draw further significant concessions from her to ensure Britain does not gain an agreement that affects the EU’s cherished single market, governing the free movement of goods, money, services and labour.
Mrs May continues to fight her corner, describing the Chequers plan as ‘the only serious and credible proposition on the table’. Perhaps so, however, one thing is certain: whilst the likes of Messrs Davis, Johnson et al seek to destabilise Mrs May, the more she stands up to the EU bullies, the more Prime Ministerial she appears.