In the viral snap, May is seen alone at a large table decorated with four potted plants, apparently lost in her thoughts.
She was in fact waiting for European Council President Donald Tusk, with whom she was to hold talks to try to break the deadlock in Brexit negotiations.
Internet users quickly drew parallels between the image and May’s isolation, both within the Brexit talks against the 27 other EU nations, and within her own Conservative party, where she is under pressure after losing the party’s majority in parliament in June snap elections.
“Theresa May sitting alone in an EU summit. The picture looks like a metaphor for how her negotiations are going,” wrote one Twitter user.
“I genuinely thought this was a stock image representing absolute loneliness. But no. It’s our Prime Minister in Brussels today,” said another tweet.
“Poor Theresa May”, wrote the left-wing Huffington Post.
“Just when things were looking up for her after getting the ‘green light’ to begin talks about a future trade deal between the EU and the UK, a photo of her sitting alone at a table in Brussels gets turned into an unfortunate meme.”
EU leaders threw May a lifeline in Brexit talks on Friday, agreeing at a Brussels summit meeting to start preparations for the next stage of negotiations.