Humiliated Theresa May finally gets sympathy from the fellow European leaders who helped make Brexit impossible for her as she arrives in Brussels – as triumphant Farage turns up in town
- The Prime Minister is attending final EU summit as Tory leader to discuss Jean-Claude Juncker’s replacement
- Nigel Farage is also in Brussels for other talks after his Brexit Party secured 29 MEPs in European elections
- A triumphant Mr Farage told reporters: ‘We give an ultimatum to Brussels rather than the other way round’
- Mr Juncker has told the PM he is ‘crystal clear’ that there will be no renegotiation of the Brexit agreement
Humiliated Theresa May faced European leaders who spent months hardballing her over Brexit today – as Nigel Farage revelled in his election triumph and told her Brexit must happen by October 31 at the latest.
She met a host of EU bigwigs including outgoing European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels today for her last summit as Conservative leader.
A grim-faced PM insisted she would keep fulfilling her ‘obligations’ despite being forced to announce her departure from Downing Street last week.
But Mr Farage, who is also in Brussels today for separate discussions, told reporters the next Tory leader should say the UK is leaving in October come what may, and give the EU five months to come to the table with a counter-offer.
Bolstered by the trouncing the Brexit Party inflicted on the Tories and Labour, securing an extraordinary 29 MEPs, he said: ‘We give an ultimatum to Brussels rather than the other way round’.
Arriving at her final summit as Tory leader Mrs May said the results were ‘deeply disappointing’ for her party and showed ‘the importance of actually delivering on Brexit’.
She said: ‘I think the best way to do that is with a deal, but it will be for my successor and for Parliament to find a way forward to get a consensus and I hope those election results will focus Parliament on the need to deliver Brexit’.
European leaders are gathering in Brussels to choose the successor to Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the EU Commission – but they will also be keen to grill her behind the scenes on the political manoeuvring in the UK over Brexit.
Mr Juncker revealed his first meeting was with Mrs May and said he was ‘crystal clear’ that Brexit talks are over with Britain, adding: ‘There will be no renegotiation’.
The premier has also met EU council president Donald Tusk, who is thought to have delivered a similar tough message.
Theresa May was consoled by EU leaders including Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured) over her political demise today as she attended a summit in Brussels
Mrs May appeared to see the funny side as she filled in EU counterparts including Mark Rutte (centre) and Xavier Bettel (left) about the political disaster that has befallen her in the UK over recent weeks
Mrs May was hugged by a series of EU leaders as they seemingly voiced sympathy at her plight and the political difficulties that have laid her low
A grim-faced PM insisted she would keep fulfilling her ‘obligations’ despite being forced to announce her departure from Downing Street
Mrs May is in Brussels for what will be her last summit as Tory leader after she quit last Friday
Mr Farage was also in the Belgian capital in the wake of the stunning showing by his new Brexit Party, which topped the poll
Outgoing President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured) said there will be no Brexit negotiation
Mr Farage was also in the Belgian capital in the wake of the stunning showing by his new Brexit Party, which topped the poll.
Fresh from his re-election as an MEP, Mr Farage demanded that the next Conservative leader send an ‘ultimatum’ to Brussels that the UK will be leaving at the end of October deal or No Deal.
Mr Farage is in Brussels forming new alliances after the election of 29 new Brexit Party MEPs
France and Germany appeared on a collision course over who should hold one of the European Union’s most coveted jobs, after weekend elections across the 28-nation bloc redrew Europe’s political map.
Arriving in Brussels for an EU summit, French President Emmanuel Macron virtually ruled out the prospect of German politician Manfred Weber replacing Jean-Claude Juncker as the new president of the bloc’s executive arm, the European Commission.
Mr Juncker’s term at the commission, which proposes EU laws and makes sure they are enforced, is due to end on October 31 and leaders from across the continent are gathering in Brussels to debate who should succeed him.
Mr Macron told reporters that his preferred choice for the post would be someone who has ‘experience either in their country or in Europe that allows them to have credibility and savoir faire’.
That appeared to be a swipe at Mr Weber, who has never served in government or a major institution such as the commission.
Mr Weber, 46, has led the conservative European People’s Party group – the biggest group in the EU assembly – since 2014.
Mr Macron said Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager, who is the commissioner responsible for competition matters, would be a suitable replacement, as would Michel Barnier, the Frenchman who has led the EU’s Brexit negotiations.
Getting Mr Barnier to head the commission would mark a fillip for Mr Macron following the strong showing of the French far-right in Sunday’s elections.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose ruling coalition suffered losses at the polls, notably to the Greens, continues to back Mr Weber.
‘I as a member of the EPP family will of course work to support Manfred Weber,’ she said.
Theresa May arrives for a European Union (EU) summit at EU Commission Headquarters in Brussels – her last as Tory leader
The PM’s premiership has been broken by her inability to deliver Brexit – with candidates looking to succeed her all promising to fix it
The PM bows her head as she heads towards the press pack on her first public engagement since quitting in tears outside No 10 last week
Theresa May said it was now for the next Prime Minister to negotiate with the EU after she failed to deliver Brexit
Both the EPP and centre-left Socialists got battered in Sunday’s elections as voters concerned about climate change, migration or security turned instead to the Greens, the pro-business ALDE group – of which Mr Macron’s party will now be a member – or far-right parties.
As a result, it is unclear what workable majority will emerge in the European Parliament when politicians gather in July.
EU leaders are also expected to discuss other top jobs in the bloc during their dinner later, including who will replace Donald Tusk as European Council president.
Blair faces backlash after insisting Remain votes DO add up to a majority in Euro elections
Mr Blair told Sky News today: ‘If you stack up the votes of the pro-remain parties it’s a bigger percentage than the Brexit Party and UKIP’.
The former Labour PM was criticised after trying to suggest that pro-EU parties won a bigger share of the vote after Nigel Farage’s crushing victory.
He said that the Remainer vote was bigger than that of both the Brexit Party and Ukip combined but failed to mention the votes won by the Conservative Party, which also backs Brexit.
His comments provoked uproar from Brexiteers who accused him of having a poor grasp of the numbers involved in the election.
Tory Brexiteer Andrew Bridgen said: ‘For anyone including Tony Blair to think the election was anything but a victory for the Brexit Party is to be in complete denial of the facts.
‘Even Tony Blair cannot spin his way out of this one.’
The row is not the first time Mr Blair interpretation of facts has been questioned.
In 2016 a report into the Iraq War by Sir John Chilcot strongly criticised the way Mr Blair led the country into the conflict in 2003 on the basis of ‘flawed’ intelligence.
Mr Tusk, who chairs the meetings of EU leaders, is also due to stand down from his job at the end of October.
EU leaders are also expected to discuss who will replace Federica Mogherini as the bloc’s next high representative – essentially the foreign minister – and who will succeed Mario Draghi as the next head of the European Central Bank.
The leaders want to move quickly and hope to be able to name candidates to the top posts at their next summit on June 20-21.
‘We want to find a solution as quickly as possible, because the European Parliament will meet at the beginning of July and it would of course be desirable if there were already a proposal at that point,’ Mrs Merkel said earlier in Berlin.
Early signs indicate that the process will take some time, and that a power struggle between the EU Council, which represents national governments, and the parliament is imminent.
No clear candidate for Mr Juncker’s post emerged from a meeting on Tuesday morning among party group leaders at the parliament.
Instead, they insisted only that the person be chosen from among the candidates put forward by the parliamentary blocs.
This puts them at odds with Mr Macron, who is insisting that EU leaders should decide on who will head the commission.
Favourites for the top jobs are likely to be traded off to maximise influence over the world’s biggest trading bloc. Nationality and gender are certain to influence the final choice.
Downing Street would not be drawn on whether Mr Barnier would be a good candidate for the commission role, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman saying: ‘I’m not getting into any of that.’
Asked whether Mrs May backed the selection process, the spokesman added: ‘The Prime Minister supports President Tusk’s approach in seeking to create a package of candidates across the top jobs.’
As Mrs May goes through the motions in Brussels, the Tory leadership battle has been becoming increasingly fractious.
Kit Malthouse today became the tenth candidate to declare – as backbench chief Graham Brady and Brexit minister James Cleverly consider joining the fray.
Launching his campaign, Mr Malthouse said his party needs a ‘new face’ and insisted he was the only leading Conservative ‘to get off his backside’ to try to solve Brexit.
The housing minister said that most people in Britain did not believe a serving Cabinet minister such as Jeremy Hunt or Sajid Javid should get the job.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron – but the pair are said to be on a collision course on who will replace Jean-CLaude Juncker
However, the field in the Tory leadership contest is looking increasingly crowded. Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt is also a potential candidate, and if Sir Graham and Mr Cleverly decide to make a run the total number of candidates will hit 13.
WHAT ARE THE KEY DATES FOR BREXIT NOW – AND CAN A NEW DEAL BE AGREED BY OCTOBER 31?
There might be five months left until the next deadline for the UK to leave the EU, but in fact time is short to prepare the ground for it to happen.
The new Tory leader is unlikely to be in place before the end of July. And then they will have just two months – including August, when much of the continent downs tools – to overhaul the Brexit deal Theresa May thrashed out with Brussels.
Success in this process would still mean a frantic race against time to pass legislation through Parliament in October.
Here are the key dates in the process:
June 7 – Theresa May formally steps down
June 10 – Tory leadership contest begins
The battle to succeed Mrs May as Tory leader should formally kick off early in June.
Nominations to stand will close in the week beginning June 10 before it is put to several rounds of votes.
The final two candidates are then offered to the Tory membership at large for an election.
It could take two to six weeks for MPs to whittle down the leadership contenders
From 24 June – Top Two Tory candidates are offered to Tory members
Once Tory MPs have whittled the leadership contenders down to the top two in a series of votes – the lucky two will be be put to a vote by Conservative Party members.
July 26 – New Tory leader selected and becomes PM
The Tory party hierarchy has said it wants a new Tory party leader to be selected by the Parliamentary recess – which is likely to be on July 26.
The new leader will become Prime Minister and form a government.
September 29-October 2 – Conservative Party conference
The Tory gathering in Manchester this autumn will be the natural time for a new leader to take the stage and try to unite the fractured party.
Assuming no way has been found to force a Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament by this point, they will need to spell out how they intend to approach the Brexit process.
October 31 – Britain leaves the EU?
The Brexit extension Mrs May thrashed out with the EU expires on October 31.
Unless another postponement can be agreed, the UK is still scheduled to leave the bloc at this point.
The BBC has said it plans to stage a televised debate – although some of the campaign teams complained they have not been consulted before the announcement was made.
The struggle is also threatening to turn nasty, as rival camps begin viciously briefing against each other.
Mr Hunt was today facing jibes that he has already crashed his Tory leadership bid after admitting Brexit might have to be delayed again to avoid No Deal.
The Foreign Secretary was hit with a backlash after delivering a stark warning that trying to push through Brexit in October in the face of opposition from Parliament would only cause a general election – and the ‘annihilation’ of the Conservatives.
Instead he insisted the government should get the DUP, Eurosceptic backbenchers, and Scottish and Welsh politicians involved in negotiation a new agreement with Brussels.
However, rival camps gloated that Mr Hunt had failed to show ‘leadership’ and would now never be chosen by Tory members even if he makes it to the run-off. ‘They want someone who will get it done,’ once source said.
Sources close to Mr Hunt dismissed the criticism, saying he was just being straight with MPs about what could be achieved. ‘He is clear you need to set out what you are going to achieve, but also how you get there and what you are not willing to do.’
Meanwhile, Aid Secretary Rory Stewart was forced to deny slurs that he is running a ‘suicide bomber’ campaign designed to clear the way for Michael Gove – and said the term made him uncomfortable as he had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Responding on Twitter, Mr Stewart said the ‘suicide metaphor sits a bit awkwardly for someone who was in Iraq and Afghanistan’.
And he added: ‘I’m not running tactically – I am running on principle and because I believe we can unify this country and make it a much better place.’
The BBC said it would be holding a TV debate between the candidates.
The clash will take place in mid-June, moderated by the journalist Emily Maitlis.
The final two candidates will also be invited to take part in a special edition of Question Time where they will be asked questions by an audience.
Fran Unsworth, BBC news and current affairs director, said: ‘Although the final say will fall to Conservative party members, it’s firmly in the public interest for audiences to question and hear from the next potential prime minister.’
However, while many contenders have voiced enthusiasm for the debates, it is unclear whether front runner Boris Johnson is keen. He is believed to be unconvinced as to which broadcaster should host and the format.