A sweat-drenched nightmare for too-trusting PM: The Salzburg showdown was May vs a phalanx of identikit suits… with zipped-in smugness, says QUENTIN LETTS
Salzburg in September may sound dreamy but it proved a sweat-drenched nightmare for too-trusting Theresa May.
Yesterday’s images from Austria were stark, striking, divisive: one red-jacketed Englishwoman pitched against a phalanx of Continental blokes in identikit suits and zipped-in smugness.
Okay, Angela Merkel was there but she’s an honorary Herr, and the Lithuanian president is allegedly a dame.
But this was a gang-bang stitch-up, a cynical group monstering. Kick kick kick. And this is how they treat a vicar’s daughter who was trying to be helpful.
She should have seen it coming on Wednesday night, when given the graveyard slot at the end of dinner with the other heads of government.
The dinner was staged at the Felsenreitschule, an historic theatre used in 1965 for the The Sound of Music closing scene. You may remember it: stormtoopers trying to capture the innocent Von Trapps. Run, Theresa! Run!
Theresa May (pictured today in Salzburg) was left isolated at the summit after leaders turned on her Chequers plan for Brexit
Theresa May (pictured at the close of the Salzburg summit today) bluntly dismissed the EU commission’s latest proposals for resolving the Northern Ireland border issue, saying they would break up the UK
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So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye! Is the…
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Instead of trying to convince her fellow diners with a ten-minute speech (and since when has any May speech persuaded anybody?) she should have politely stood, straightened her Dirndl and sung ‘So Long, Farewell, Adieu, Adieu, Adieu’.
But Downing Street’s mandarins do not comprehend theatrics, just as they have no clue about the art of springing a surprise.
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That is why Olly Robbins and his civil service numpties were so outmanoeuvred yesterday and why Mrs May looked so cross. At some point she must surely realise that David Davis and Boris Johnson were better friends to her than those Remainer snakes in Whitehall.
Was she cross yesterday? She was steaming. Literally. The head wobbled with fury. Her eyes darted and bulged and practically boiled in their own juices. The old banger’s temperature gauge was needling deep into the danger zone.
Oops. Did I just call our Prime Minster an old banger? It was meant in the metaphorical sense. Let’s just say that in Star Trek at this point, Scottie would have been shaking his head and saying he couldna hold her much longer, Cap’n.
They had apportioned a tiny room near Mozart University for the May press conference. It was a veritable sweat box. The Salzburg smoker. As hot and nasty as a prop forward’s jockstrap.
EU chiefs Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker had just given a news conference of their own, in a grander, more airy location.
They had sauntered in to stand at three lecterns alongside youthful Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. We were told it was him, anyway. One did half wonder if it was the under-manager of the Schloss Monchstein hotel.
At a press conference in Salzburg today (pictured), EU council chief Donald Tusk insisted Theresa May’s Chequers plan would undermine the single market
Three guttural goons. Young Kurz was comparatively blameless but Juncker (for once looking sober) was luxuriating in it.
A chance to whack the Brits. The Luxembourg lush insisted a no-deal Brexit would not faze him or his friends.
‘Be happy, don’t worry,’ he chuckled. He may be a bibulous fool but you have to say he played his bluff with aplomb. If only Mrs May were as good at cards.
Tusk merely said that the Chequers plan – which, remember, most Leavers regard as flaccid capitulation and for which Mrs May lost her Cabinet’s two strongest Leavers – ‘will not work’. His and the EU’s game: to get the impertinent British to vote again, and zis time to vote ze right way.
Mrs May was unable to disguise her anger. She sped through questions from the press, her lips curling at the edges, her head bouncing up and down as if she would happily have butted the first person who came too close.
As she began her remarks (about what a ‘good discussion’ they had all had!), a bottle fell to the floor. Had her inept Chief of Staff just swallowed hemlock?
Mrs May’s grey hair looked like a helmet and she had a chain round her neck. Fetters, indeed. That’s the EU for you, prime minister, and we wish you would unshackle us and show some guts.
Tell ’em to get stuffed. Detonate your inner handbag. Seize their blatant obstuctionism and cancel all further negotiations. You would have your party, and much of your country, behind you.
Theresa May talks with Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (left) and the Governor of Salzburg State Wilfried Haslauer jr (right) on the sidelines of a family photo at the Mirabellgarten garden in front of the Mozarteum University during the EU summit
Mrs May put on a brave face today as she started crucial talks with EU leaders in Salzburg after several said talks over Brexit are ‘at a standstill’. She is pictured with Jean-Claude Juncker (centre) and Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel (right)
Mrs May greeted Mr Juncker warmly at the summit today but the negotiations are deadlocked
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