Brexit battle: UK-EU barbs descend into cherry row

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has urged European Union leaders to get the "tone" right in their ne...

Posted: Sep 23, 2018 10:00 AM
Updated: Sep 23, 2018 10:00 AM

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has urged European Union leaders to get the "tone" right in their negotiations with the UK over Brexit following a social media post by European Council President Donald Tusk.

Hunt made the comments on BBC's Radio 4 on Saturday when asked about an Instagram post by Tusk showing himself and the UK Prime Minister Theresa May choosing from a cake stand.

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Tusk added the caption: "A piece of cake, perhaps? Sorry, no cherries."

The EU side has repeatedly accused Britain of wanting to "have its cake and eat it" and of cherry-picking as it seeks to keep elements of the single market it likes and ditch others it doesn't.

"If we are going to work seriously towards a solution then we need to avoid revving up the situation and making it worse by appealing to audiences on social media," Hunt told the BBC.

May said Friday that negotiations with the EU were "at an impasse" after a disastrous summit at which her Brexit plan was largely rejected.

She called for the EU's leaders to "respect" the British position and the result of the June 2016 referendum.

A day after returning from the summit in Salzburg, Austria she called on the EU to spell out its objections to her plan or come up with an alternative.

"Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect. The UK expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it," May said.

May faced widespread humiliation at the Salzburg summit after EU leaders failed to back her so-called Chequers plan. The PM said the two sides remained "a long way apart" but insisted the British "stand ready" to work on resolving the issues.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the entire Brexit project was sold to the British people by "liars" who immediately fled the stage, unwilling to see their project through.

Hunt replaced leading Brexiter Boris Johnson as foreign secretary after he said he was unable to support May's EU exit proposals.

"What Theresa May is saying is: don't mistake British politeness for weakness," Hunt said.

"If you put us in a difficult corner, we will stand our ground. That's the kind of country we are."

Over the years, the UK has opted out of a number of important EU integration initiatives, including the Social Charter on workers' rights and joining the single currency.

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