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EU patience with Theresa May wears thin

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British Prime Minister Theresa May | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Officials in Brussels say they now regard the UK prime minister as an unreliable negotiating partner.

By Jacopo Barigazzi and David M. Herszenhorn

2/12/19, 10:29 PM CET

Updated 2/13/19, 9:21 PM CET

It may not be the perception in London, but EU leaders feel they've bent over backwards to help the U.K. prime minister deliver an orderly Brexit.

They won't be doing that anymore.

Theresa May’s failure to get the Brexit deal through parliament — and her continued failure to build a national consensus around a plan for the U.K.’s future — has led her EU colleagues to conclude they can no longer rely on her.

The idea that the likes of Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Donald Tusk have been great allies of the U.K. prime minister may sound preposterous in London — even to May herself. But whatever assistance they offered May to guard against a Brexit ideologue taking her place appears now to be drying up.

In recent days, European Council President Donald Tusk and the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, have publicly praised a plan put forward by May’s opposite number, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, that would keep Britain inside the EU’s customs union.

Those remarks, by Tusk directly to May in a face-to-face meeting last week, and by Barnier at a news conference on Monday in Luxembourg (he dubbed Corbyn's intervention “interesting in tone and in content"), showed the EU is no longer willing to defer to May’s handling of Brexit. It underscored how frustration with her has grown so deep in Brussels that EU officials no longer see a big risk in wading directly into the U.K.’s volatile domestic political debate.

EU negotiators have moved with uncharacteristic speed to publicly torpedo British ideas they regard as false or magical thinking.

The European Parliament's Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt was the most explicit in endorsing cross-party dialogue in Westminster. "I hope that such cross-party cooperation will now lead to a new proposal, further........

© Politico