Theresa May squares up to Juncker in squabble over ‘nebulous’ insult

The EU has rejected her calls for the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to be tweaked.

Speaking just after Mrs May's pitch to the 27 European Union leaders, Mr Juncker said he wanted "our United Kingdom friends to set out their expectations for us because this debate is sometimes nebulous and imprecise and I would like clarifications".

The prime minister admitted she had a "robust" discussion with Jean-Claude Juncker, captured by the cameras as leaders sat down for private talks.

Now the prime minister has responded by heeding calls from supporters to take inspiration from her Conservative predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, and stage her own "handbag moment" at the summit.

One word sent sparks flying between two of the biggest protagonists, British Prime Minister Theresa May and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

Urging Mrs May to explain how she wanted to approach dealing with MPs' concerns about the Northern Irish backstop, he said: "This debate is sometimes nebulous and we would like clarification".

Later Juncker said at a press conference: "Theresa May is a good friend of ours".

May's stand at the summit will boost her image at home temporarily, but has exposed how far away she is in achieving the "legal and political assurances" over the Brexit deal she promised MPs.

Council president Donald Tusk said the leaders had expressed a "firm determination" to work "speedily" to ensure there is an agreement on the future relationship in place by the time the transition period ends in December 2020, so the backstop is not needed.

"I was following the debate in the House and I can not see where the British Parliament is heading at.' To laughter from journalists, Mr Juncker said: 'In the course of the morning, after having checked what I said yesterday night, she was kissing me".

He added: 'We don't want the United Kingdom to think there can be any form of renegotiation, that is crystal clear.

"The legally binding arrangement which ties us to the EU and ties us to the EU indefinitely, and ties us to the EU until the EU decide to let us go is not acceptable".

Mrs May managed a smile at her press conference when a reporter asked if she had had a "trying week", jokingly replying: 'Has something happened this week?'

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