British Prime Minister Theresa May holds a press conference after the second day of European Union leaders summit at the European Council in Brussels on Oct 18, 2018. [Photo/VCG]
BRUSSELS — British Prime Minister Theresa May will head home from an inconclusive European Union summit on Brexit to a barrage of criticism that her 27 EU counterparts spared her during the two-day event that ended Thursday.
In Brussels, May said she would consider a longer transition period, one that could keep Britain aligned to EU rules and obligations for over two years after its March departure. Pro-Brexit politicians in the UK saw it as an attempt to bind the country to the bloc indefinitely.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis and other from May's party warned the prime minister not to "engage in a show of resistance and a choreographed argument followed by surrender" to the EU.
Pro-EU politicians, meanwhile, said the transition period proposal was another sign of May's weak bargaining hand and an attempt to stall for time. Another former Conservative minister, Nick Boles, warned that May was "losing the confidence now of colleagues of all shades of opinion".
May stood firm in the face of the stinging criticism at home, saying Thursday that the UK and the EU could overcome the "few but considerable" disagreements standing in the way of a divorce agreement.
Leaders of other member countries said the real fight was not with the EU. but within May's fractured Conservative Party.
It is "not up to the European Union to make concessions to deal with an internal British political matter," French President Emmanuel Macron said. "It's a matter concerning Britain's political ability to find a presentable agreement. That's all."
At the end of the EU summit, May said there would be "tough negotiations," but she remained confident Britain and the bloc could strike a divorce deal that worked for both sides.
EU Council President Donald Tusk said the summit also left him more optimistic than he'd been after a bad-tempered meeting last month and a negotiating crisis on Sunday.
"What I feel today is that we are closer to the final solutions and the deal," Tusk said. He acknowledged the feeling "may be a more emotional impression than a rational one. But emotions matter, also in politics."
But May was under attack from across Britain's political spectrum after saying she was considering the EU proposal for a longer post-Brexit transition period.