SALZBURG, Austria (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May, arriving at an EU summit dinner in Austria on Wednesday, called on fellow European Union leaders to follow her lead and adapt their Brexit negotiating stance to get a good deal.
“If we’re going to achieve a successful conclusion then, just as the UK has evolved its position, the EU will need to evolve its position too,” May told reporters on arrival in Salzburg.
“I’m confident that with goodwill and determination we can agree a deal that right for both parties.”
She defended her Chequers proposals on a future customs and trade arrangement with the bloc, saying: “It maintains frictionless trade. It’s the only credible and negotiable plan on the table that delivers no hard border in Northern Ireland and also delivers on the vote of the British people.”
Asked about comments from EU negotiator Michel Barnier that he would improve a proposal on the Northern Ireland border, she said that was positive but she still saw difficulties with EU calls for checks on trade between the province and the British mainland if the “backstop” were ever activated:
“I welcome the fact that Michel Barnier is recognising the need to find a new solution. The original proposal put forward by the European Commission was unacceptable to us,” May said.
“We’ve always recognised that there are unique circumstances that apply in Northern Ireland, for example in relation to checks for some agricultural products. But what we cannot accept is seeing Northern Ireland carved away effectively from the United Kingdom’s customs territory.
“Regardless of where the checks will be, what that would mean is that there would be a challenge to our constitutional and economic integrity.”
She criticised some members of the opposition Labour Party for pressing for a vote to reverse the 2016 Brexit referendum:
“There are prominent Labour members like the mayor of London who are now trying to take us back to square one and are backing a second referendum and postponing the Brexit date, the exit day. I want to be absolutely clear - this government will never accept a second referendum.
“The British people have voted to leave the European Union and we will be leaving on the 29th of March, 2019.
“I now call on the Labour leadership to rule out a second referendum and stop trying to frustrate the Brexit process. It’s now a matter of trust in British politicians that we should deliver on the will of the people.”
Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alastair Macdonald