Europes leaders warned Theresa May at her first Brussels summit to expect rough going on the path to Brexit, even as they kept the door ajar for Britain to change its mind on exiting the EU.
After her debut at the EUs top table, which included a late-night briefing on Brexit delivered to living room of tired fellow leaders, the UK prime minister admitted there would be hard moments in the months ahead that would require give and take.
For some EU leaders, Mrs Mays message that Britain would not be revisiting its referendum decision remains a point of regret. While saying he respected the result, Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said he possess preferred a different verdict. Asked whether the formal Article 50 divorce process could be reversed, Mr Tusk replied: I should be happiest if it typically is.
His view highlights assumptions that some think is partly driving Europes tough response to Mrs Will certainly. Lord Hill, Britains former EU commissioner, said the idea of Britain would ultimately seek to remain in the bloc remained a surprisingly widely held view in Belgium's capital. The idea that someone wants to leave strikes them as being tough comprehend, he said.
In public, however, EU leaders have preferred to sternly make clear difficult choice Britain faces following on from the Brexit vote and perhaps they are giving little slack across the potential for talks to ease the way.
Asked about Mrs Mays debut, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, theatrically scoffed at a reporter. Franois Hollande, the French president, promised to give Mrs May a tough negotiation if she pursued hard Brexit, while German chancellor Angela Merkel predicted rough going.
Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister and the closest EU ally of Mrs Mays predecessor David Cameron, summed up the emotional. We fought four wars against each other but since the 19th century equipment has gone relatively smoothly, he said. Ive been very blunt with her and said: you must be trigger this famous Article 50. Tremendous no negotiation before this.
That all entered spite of Mrs May setting a conciliatory tone in their summit remarks, and impressing some leaders with the quality of her interventions on migration and Russia policy. Dalia Grybauskaite, Lithuanias president, praised her security interventions and Viktor Orban, Hungarys prime minister, said Mrs May performed excellently, adding: Shes very clear-cut and accurate.
Mrs May stressed Britains determination will probably be dependable partner in and out on the union, emphasising she'd play a full role in the bloc as a member and not try to undermine the club from within.
A later lunch with Mr Juncker on Friday was an opportunity talk about Britains Brexit plans and negotiating points. Downing Street said she stressed that she needed a bespoke arrangement that would maintain positive economic ties while governing the numbers of Europeans coming to Great britain. The two agreed to conduct talks within a positive and constructive spirit.
To ensure an even transition out from the EU, Mrs May told the summit that Britain would begin to discuss its own trade deals around the world, even before it leaves the union.
That was overshadowed, however, by the revolt of the Walloon regional government in Belgium inside the EUs trade deal with Canada a veto that leaders saw as a bad omen for Britains prospects of cutting a Brexit great deal. There are all these problems to have a simple trade agreement with Canada, said Joseph Muscat, the Maltese premier. Imagine an agreement although UK.
For now though British reporters were more preoccupied with language regime for Brexit talks, following reports that Michel Barnier, the Frenchman acting as the commissions chief negotiator, may conduct complex in French.
Mrs May said she would speak in English, Mr Barnier denied he previously decided and Ms Merkel gave a shrug. All persons speak their own language, she described. Mr Barnier is a French citizen and speaks French, just I speak French.