Wednesday

6th Jul 2022

British PM asserts her role in EU 'nest of doves'

  • May: "The UK is leaving the EU but we will continue to play a full role until we leave." (Photo: Consilium)

At her first EU summit on Thursday (20 October), British prime minister Theresa May let other leaders know that she was not there only to wait until Brexit formally happens but said nothing about the upcoming process.

Although she hinted several times that she would seek a so-called "hard Brexit", few EU colleagues wanted to cross swords with her before the negotiations have started.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Her host in Brussels, European Council president Donald Tusk set a friendly tone before the summit started, saying that she was not entering a lion's den but a "nest of doves."

"She'll be absolutely safe with us. And I hope that she will also realise that the European Union is simply the best company in the world," he said.

Upon her arrival, May said she had come "with a clear message. The UK is leaving the EU but we will continue to play a full role until we leave."

She tried to prove it by first calling on the EU to "show a robust and united stance in the face of Russian aggression" in Syria.

Then, early in the summit, after Slovak prime minister Robert Fico gave an update about work on the roadmap for EU reforms agreed at the Bratislava summit on16 September, May took her colleagues by surprise.

She said that she "recognises and understands" the desire of the 27 other leaders to meet without her, as they did in the Slovak capital to discuss the future of the EU without the UK. But she insisted that when decisions will be taken that could affect all 28 member states, the UK should be there.

Tusk told journalists after the meeting: "Our regular meetings will be of course with 28 member states".



He added that after the UK started its exit negotiations, other leaders would have a "right and also [a] legal obligation to meet at 27 to discuss [their] strategy."

"There is nothing extraordinary," he said, adding that he "would have preferred the 28 member states' format not only for the next months but also for the next years and decades."

'Constructive spirit'

Diplomats said May was active during the summit discussions on migration, Russia, and Syria.

Then, shortly after midnight, she gave a quick update on her government's position on the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

She spoke only five minutes to confirm that she would trigger article 50, the exit procedure, before the end of March

"Nothing revolutionary," one official said.

"She said she will enter the discussion with the most constructive spirit. We'll see," French president Francois Hollande said.

Before the meeting, he had warned that if May wanted a "hard Brexit, negotiations will be hard."

German chancellor Angela Merkel said that May's message was "OK", adding that it was "a good basis for the upcoming work together", even if the Brexit talks will be "a difficult path".

May: Brexit is 'quiet revolution'

The British prime minister concluded the Tory party conference in the UK by pledging to regain control of immigration and by taking a swipe at pro-EU elites.

May struggles to contain Brexit angst

Government under fire from Scotland and from opposition MPs for "chaotic" Brexit preparations, despite May's new committee and pledge on parliament debates.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

News in Brief

  1. Instant legal challenge after ok for 'green' gas and nuclear
  2. Alleged Copenhagen shooter tried calling helpline
  3. Socialist leader urges Czech PM to ratify Istanbul convention
  4. Scottish law chief casts doubt on referendum
  5. British PM faces mounting rebellion
  6. Russian military base near Finnish border emptied
  7. Euro slides to lowest level in two decades
  8. State intervention ends Norwegian oil and gas strike

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  2. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  3. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  4. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  5. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record
  6. MEPs adopt new digital 'rule book', amid surveillance doubts
  7. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules
  8. Turkey sends mixed signals on Sweden's entry into Nato

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us