JEAN-Claude Juncker raised hopes of a Brexit deal yesterday by offering to work with Theresa May to build “an ambitious partnership for the future” – before Dominic Raab sent a clear no-deal warning to the EU.
In a softening of his tone in the EU departure talks, the European Commission President suggested the Prime Minister’s Chequer’s plan could be the “starting point for such a partnership”.
He also promised: “The UK will never be an ordinary, third country for us. The UK will always be a very close neighbour and partner, in political, economic and security terms.”
His remarks, in his annual “state of the union” speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, were being seen in Whitehall as a further sign that EU negotiators are ready to engage on the details of Mrs May’s proposals.
It follows reports from Brussels and Berlin that EU leaders want to alter chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s instructions to allow more room to conclude a deal.
But they also raised concerns among Euro-sceptic Tories that the Prime Minister will be forced into further compromises with the EU.
Mr Juncker also used his speech to repeat the EU’s “red lines” in the Brussels talks.