European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has issued a fresh warning to Theresa May that there must be agreement on the Irish border if she wants a Brexit deal.
Despite the rejection of key elements of Mrs May’s Chequers blueprint for Brexit at last month’s informal summit in Salzburg, Mr Juncker insisted the EU still wanted an agreement.
However, addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg ahead of the next EU summit in Brussels later this month, he stressed the EU would not compromise on key principles.
“We will have an interesting meeting as far as Brexit is concerned. We want to have a deal. Those who think a no-deal would be a better solution are not aware of the difficulties such a scenario would imply,” he said.
“When it comes to the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, we are sticking to the point of view we have expressed so many times – Ireland first.”
The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt said the EU would never compromise its core principles to rescue a Conservative Government from the “mess of Brexit”.
He rejected a reported call by Boris Johnson for an extension to the Article 50 negotiations and dismissed Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s plan for new migration controls after Britain has left the EU.
“We will never accept discrimination based on skills and nationality, as Javid proposed,” he said.
“We will never give in and undermine the principles of our union. We will never undermine the principles of union, the European project, to rescue a political party in Britain who is not even capable to find a common line on the exit of the mess Brexit.”
The summit on October 18 to 19 has been billed as the “moment of truth” when it will become clear whether it is possible for the two sides to do a deal.
The parliament also heard renewed criticism of Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt over his comparison of the EU to the former Soviet Union.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the main centre right grouping in the parliament, said Mr Hunt needed to apologize for his comments.
“Now we experience a new level of populism when the foreign minister of Great Britain, Hunt, is comparing the European Union with the Soviet Union,” he said.
He quoted Polish former foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski who said: “Please Mr Hunt, show us the gulag, please Mr Hunt show us the Soviet Union army troops in your country, please show us the Stasi system in your country.”
He added: “So Sikorski is right. Mr Hunt, you should apologize for what you have said.”