What to make of Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council’s latest tweet? Ahead of tonight’s dinner in Salzburg, he says:
‘Today there is perhaps more hope but there is surely less and less time. On the Irish question and the framework for economic cooperation the UK’s proposal needs to be reworked’
The first sentence is classic Tusk; he has a fondness for statements that are meant to sound profound. His comments on the Irish border are also to be expected. The UK and the EU are still 48 kilometres apart on this question and playing a dangerous game of chicken. Theresa May will use tonight’s dinner to try and persuade the 27 EU heads of government to back away from trying to impose a customs border in the Irish sea. The British side say that May has made some progress with some national leaders in the past when she has asked them if they could accept such a division of their own country. I would expect her to employ this tactic again.
But what will disappoint the government is how negative Tusk sounds on the heart of the Chequers plan. The use of the word ‘reworked’ for the economic section of it doesn’t give May much to point to at Tory conference. It will also increase fears, from the Cabinet down, that May is going to be pushed into giving more ground. But she simply does not have the political space to do that.