Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May both arrived in Brussels ahead of a key European summit on 19 October. While EU politicians refused May face-to-face talks, and relegated her talk to a few minutes at the end of a dinner, they welcomed Corbyn with warm hugs and standing ovations.
Corbyn was in Brussels to meet European leaders and deliver a speech to Europe’s centre-left parties, many of which are struggling to replicate his popularity among voters. Gianni Pittella, leader of the European Parliament’s socialist group, introduced Corbyn as “the new Prime Minister of Britain”. And the Labour leader received a hero’s welcome from the audience, which included at least five EU leaders:
Corbyn used his speech to call on both sides to stop “posturing” and start moving Brexit negotiations forward:
I urge all leaders on all sides: the UK and the EU. The UK and the European Union must take steps together. There is no need for insults or divisive posturing. It is our responsibility to build a relationship that will continue to thrive for generations to come and we in the Labour party are determined to achieve that.
The Labour Party, he said, did not see anyone in Europe as an enemy:
You are our colleagues, our partners, our comrades and our friends… We must and will respect the result of the EU referendum but at the same time build a new close and cooperative relationship with our fellow Europeans based on our common interests. We are internationalists.
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Corbyn went on to meet with the prime ministers of Sweden, Italy and Portugal, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, and the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani.
Meanwhile, Theresa May was rebuffed by EU leaders, who refused her face-to-face talks. And French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted footage of Britain’s Prime Minister walking awkwardly behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Macron as the pair talked to each other:
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) October 19, 2017
Later, May was relegated to speaking for a few minutes at the end of a dinner, in which she pleaded with EU leaders to help her make a deal. “As expected, nobody reacted,” an EU source told The Guardian.
In stark contrast to Corbyn’s tone, May is notorious for her combative approach to EU negotiations. First, she used EU citizens living in the UK as political pawns. Then, she threatened to turn Britain into a tax haven if she didn’t get her way. Next, she launched extraordinary attacks on the EU leaders she needs to strike a deal with. Finally, after triggering Article 50, she put the EU on hold while she called a general election in the hope of increasing her own majority – and failed.
As a result, she often finds herself cold-shouldered and speaking to empty rooms – hardly a good starting point for negotiations.
Weak, discredited and isolated
May has now finally admitted that the negotiations are in difficulty. But it’s too little too late. May is weak, discredited and isolated. And right now, her negotiations are setting Britain on course for a potentially catastrophic ‘no deal’ Brexit.
We need a radically different approach to negotiations with Europe. And for that to happen, May needs to stand aside.
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