A HUMILIATED Theresa May has ramped up preparations for a no-deal Brexit, launching a furious attack on European leaders for not taking her plans seriously.

The Prime Minister said the EU needed to understand that she would not “overturn the result of the referendum”.

“Nor,” she added, “will I break up my country.”

The Tory leader’s angry response was seemingly sparked in part because European Council president Donald Tusk pranked her during Thursday’s EU summit in Salzburg.

At one point during the meeting Tusk ushered May over to some strategically positioned cakes, and offered her one of the tasty treats. But after the summit the former Polish prime minister posted a picture on Instagram of him and May beside the petit fours, with the caption reading: “A piece of cake, perhaps? Sorry, no cherries.”

In her statement, the Prime Minister insisted she had always treated the EU with “nothing but respect”.

“The UK expects the same,” she added.

The statement, which was delayed by ten minutes because of a lack of power inside Downing Street, sent the pound plummeting.

May said the UK and the EU were at an “impasse,” citing irreconcilable differences on the UK’s future relationship with Europe and the backstop and on Northern Ireland. "I have always said that these negotiations would be tough, and they were always bound to be toughest in the final straight,” the Prime Minister said.

"While both sides want a deal, we have to face up to the fact that despite the progress we have made there are two big issues where we remain a long way apart."

She added: "Here the EU is still only offering us two options. The first option would involve the UK staying in the European Economic Area and a customs union with the EU.

"In plain English, this would mean we'd still have to abide by the all EU rules: uncontrolled immigration from the EU would continue and we couldn't do trade deals we want with other countries.

"That would make a mockery of the referendum we had two years ago."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described May's statement as "dreadful". 

She tweeted: "The EU view was bluntly expressed yesterday but not new - she just hasn’t been listening. If her tactic now is to double down on the Chequers dead duck, and then blame EU for a no deal, she will do huge damage to all those she is supposed to serve.

"The only remotely workable way to do Brexit is to stay in the single market and customs union. If PM not prepared to do that, Brexit shouldn’t happen. ‘No deal’ or ‘no detail‘ Brexit simply not acceptable - especially for Scotland, where we did not vote for this."

On Ireland, the Prime Minister said there was consensus that the withdrawal agreement to be agreed by the EU and the UK needed "to include a backstop to ensure that if there's a delay in implementing our new relationship, there still won't be a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland."

She explained: "But the EU is proposing to achieve this by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the customs union.

"As I have already said, that is unacceptable. We will never agree to it. It would mean breaking up our country."

May also said the blame for the collapse in the talks lay squarely at the feet of the European Council’s president.

"Yesterday, Donald Tusk said our proposals would undermine the single market. He didn't explain how in any detail or make any counter-proposal. So we are at an impasse.

"At this stage in the negotiations it is not acceptable to simply reject the other side's proposals without a detailed explanation and counter proposals, so we now need to hear from the EU, what the real issues are and what their alternative is so that we can discuss them, until we do we cannot make progress."

In a defiant final message, May said: "The EU should be clear: I will not overturn the result of the referendum. Nor will I break up my country.

"We need serious engagement on resolving the two big problems in the negotiations. We stand ready."