Brussels, Feb 6: European Council President Donald Tusk on Wednesday said there is a “special place in hell” for those who pushed for Brexit without a plan and reiterated the EU’s refusal to renegotiate the withdrawal treaty.
Tusk’s comments came after he spoke to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. He also took aim at UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, claiming there was a leadership void at the heart of the ‘Remain’ movement.
The top EU official also tweeted the remark: “I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted #Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.”
Tusk said he knew there were “still a very great number of people” in the UK, on the continent and in Ireland who wanted to reverse the decision.
“I have always been with you with all my heart, but the facts are unmistakable. At the moment the pro-Brexit stance of the UK Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition rules out this question. Today there is no political force and no effective leadership for Remain.”
He said the EU’s top priority was to prepare for the “fiasco” of a no-deal Brexit, while ruling out any renegotiation of the Irish backstop.
“There is no room for speculation here… We will not gamble with peace or put a sell-by date on reconciliation,” he said, rejecting British demands for a time limit on the Irish backstop.
After the press conference ended, Varadkar was picked up on a microphone, saying: “They’ll give you terrible trouble, the British, for this.” In response, Tusk nodded and laughed.
Varadkar said the withdrawal agreement May agreed with the EU in November was “the best deal possible”. He said the backstop was intended never to be used, but was needed as a legal guarantee, “to ensure that there is no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland while protecting the integrity of our European single market and customs union”.
“The instability in British politics in recent weeks demonstrates exactly why we need a legal guarantee and a solution that is operable that we know will work, will last,” he said.
“As leader of a small country this solidarity resonated deeply in Ireland, and with other small member states,” he said, adding that because of the “instability and fast-approaching deadline, no-deal planning must intensify”.
May was in Northern Ireland for a second day of talks ahead of her visit to Brussels on Thursday when she will meet Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Tusk said he hoped to “hear from… May a realistic suggestion on how to end the impasse”.
Last month, May’s Brexit deal was comprehensively rejected by the UK Parliament and MPs then voted to send her back to Brussels to seek “alternative arrangements” to the Irish backstop.