EU leaders lined up to torpedo Boris Johnson’s hopes of reopening the Brexit deal.
Bloc chiefs shot down the Tory leadership frontrunner’s plan to reshape the Withdrawal Agreement as they arrived a summit in Brussels.
Three months after the UK was due to have left the EU, Theresa May skulked back to the city for a meeting with her 27 counterparts.
Leaders were thrashing out plans to carve up top jobs in a regular shake-up of senior officials.
But were talking about the Westminster turmoil which will see a new British Prime Minister in No10 next month.
Outgoing Mrs May said: “There is a leadership election taking place, obviously there are further votes taking place this afternoon and then the question of the leadership of the Conservative Party will go to the members of the Conservative Party across the country.”
She admitted: “This is expected to be – certainly the last scheduled – European Council I will be at.
“I will continue to do what we have always done as the UK, which is to play a constructive role within the European Union while we are part of the discussions round the table.
“But in the future the UK will taking a different role because we will be outside the European Union.”
Bookies’ favourite Mr Johnson has insisted the UK will leave the bloc by the October 31 deadline, with or without a deal.
The former Foreign Secretary has vowed to renegotiate the exit pact which the Commons rejected three times – and scrap the Irish backstop to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Warning the Withdrawal Agreement would not be reopened, Irish premier Leo Varadkar said: “There will be European unity, that negotiations can only happen between the EU and UK in the EU – we’re not going to allow negotiations to be moved to an inter-government level in any way.”
He added: “The Withdrawal Agreement is not going to be re-opened, but we are willing to consider amendments to the joint Political Declaration – and if there is no Withdrawal Agreement, then there is no transition period for the United Kingdom.”
He also said continental attitudes were hardening against another Brexit delay, after two this year already.
“There’s very much a strong view across the European Union that there shouldn’t be any more extensions,” he said.
“While I have endless patience, some of my colleagues have lost patience, quite frankly, with the UK and there’s enormous hostility to any further extension.
“So, I think an extension could only really happen if it were to facilitate something like a general election in the UK or perhaps even something like a second referendum if they decided to have one.
“What won’t be entertained is an extension for further negotiations or further indicative votes: the time for that has long since passed.”
Dutch PM Mark Rutte claimed the UK would be “a diminished country” after Brexit.3
“I hate Brexit from every angle, I hate no-deal Brexit from every angle,” he told the BBC.
“With a hard Brexit, even with a normal Brexit, the UK will be a different country.
“It will be a diminished country. It is unavoidable.”
Doubting the prospects of a second referendum, he added: “I’ve stopped dreaming – we have to avoid a hard Brexit now.”
He risked fury among hardline Brexiteers by warning the UK will “not be big enough to have an important position on the world’s stage”after it leaves the EU.