The last words Europe’s leaders had for Theresa May after approving her Brexit divorce deal on Sunday were “good luck!”
It was hardly the biggest vote of confidence for the UK prime minister as she attempts to sell the much-criticized agreement to Parliament and the UK people. But for now, after countless episodes of bad blood and irritation, Europe and May are on the same side. Nobody wants this plan to fail.
Diplomats had taken steps to ensure the summit in Brussels wasn’t to become a negotiating session. Only seven of the EU’s 27 leaders spoke before May entered the room, behind closed doors on a drizzly Sunday morning in Brussels.
When she did, gone was the combative language that had characterized her previous addresses to them – first at the same table last June, and then in Salzburg, Austria, in September. Instead, May thanked them for their part in getting to this day.
“Only other leaders know what each other goes through and how lonely the job can be,” said one EU diplomat after the meeting.
So, despite their differences, the message from most of the 14 leaders who spoke after May was to wish her luck, a second person present in the room said. It was this rather than to ask what would happen if the vote in Parliament – expected in December – fails.
All leaders had taken the conscious decision not to talk about the possibility of a “plan B,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, adding that “any other deal really only exists in other people’s imaginations.”
EU summits are renowned for dragging on throughout the night. This one ended at two minutes to noon. It was a deliberate signal from EU leaders that they want to wash their hands of Brexit and move on.