Belfast Telegraph

Labour accuses Theresa May of wrecking successful Brexit deal by making Britain a ‘laughing stock’ across EU

‘If you see the pictures now, Theresa May is at the back of the queue whenever she is talking to the leaders in Europe – we are a laughing stock’

Labour has accused Theresa May of wrecking prospects of a successful Brexit deal with an aggressive stance that has made Britain a “laughing stock” across the EU.

The Prime Minister has “made us look like ogres” instead of taking part in a sensible dialogue that is the key to a smooth exit and trade agreement, said Angela Rayner, the party’s education spokeswoman.

The highly personal attack came as David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, hinted that Britain will walk away from the talks if the EU refuses to offer “free and frictionless trade”.

The negotiations could collapse even before that stage, after Mr Davis attacked the EU’s demand for its citizens in the UK to continue to receive welfare benefits and have the right to bring in family members.

With the election nine days away, Ms Rayner drew the dividing line between the parties on Brexit by insisting Labour would never accept that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

Condemning the Prime Minister’s tactics, she said: “Saying that you are going to be a bloody difficult woman right at the start of negotiations tends to make sure that you do get a bad deal, rather than actually working with our partners across Europe to get the best deal for Britain.”

Calling for “dialogue”, Ms Rayner added: “At the moment, unfortunately, Theresa May - in the way that she has handled it – has made us look like ogres across Europe.

“If you see the pictures now, Theresa May is at the back of the queue whenever she is talking to the leaders in Europe – we are a laughing stock.”

Mr Davis and Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, added to the damaging image because of the way they “laugh and smirk and think it’s all one big laugh”, she told Radio 4’s Today programme.

Hitting back, Mr Davis branded Ms Rayner “incredibly naïve” to believe being nice would get results, insisting: “We are going to have to be quite tough with them I’m afraid.”

The Brexit Secretary attacked the EU’s call, in documents issued yesterday, for its citizens in the UK to continue to be able to send welfare benefits to family members abroad.

A further flashpoint would be over the demand for those citizens to “bring in partners from third countries”, which, Mr Davis insisted, was not allowed for other foreign-born people in Britain.

Backing the Prime Minister’s negotiating style, he said: “She is good at dealing with the Europeans on these contentious issues – that’s incredibly important.”

On his aims for the talks, Mr Davis said: “What we are after is a free trade agreement with an associated customs agreement, so we get free and frictionless trade.”

But he added: “If we can’t have one, then we will have to design our strategy accordingly – which is why we have said no deal is better than a bad deal.”

EU leaders and officials believe the threat to walk way is an empty one, because it would be an enormous act of ‘self-harm”, hugely damaging the British economy.

In her speech today, the Prime Minister will herself admit that “economic prosperity will suffer, jobs and livelihoods will be put at risk” if the negotiations fail – leaving the NHS and schools starved of funding.

Independent News Service

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