Donald Tusk, the European Council’s president, blasted British politicians who lobbied for the U.K. to leave the European Union without first working out how to do it.
“I have been wondering what a special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of plan how to carry it safely,” Tusk said.
Tusk gave no indication the other 27 EU countries will be up for reopening the Brexit withdrawal agreement that British Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated but that was overwhelmingly rejected by British lawmakers.
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 — the first time a country has ever done so. May is due in Brussels on Thursday with what she says is a parliamentary mandate to reopen the draft agreement, sealed after 18 months of intense and highly technical negotiations.
Speaking alongside Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Tusk said “the EU 27 is not making any new offer” to the British government to help pass their Brexit divorce deal in Parliament.
They both underlined that preparations are being intensified for a potentially disastrous no-deal scenario under which Britain would leave the EU without an agreement.
Varadkar said the Brexit deal, which was rejected by Parliament, was “the best possible.” He said Britain’s political instability was another proof of why the backstop was needed.
Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage responded to Tusk, saying that “after Brexit, we will be free of unelected, arrogant bullies like you and run our own country — sounds more like heaven to me.”
Backstop on the agenda in Northern Ireland
On Wednesday, May discussed putting a time limit on the so-called Irish border backstop in talks with Northern Ireland’s Ulster Unionist Party, the party’s leader said Wednesday.
“She spoke to us today about putting a time limit on the backstop. We don’t see a time limit as being the answer, because time limit can be extended,” Robin Swann said after the meeting.
Swann said it was just one of the options raised by May.
“While she seems to be talking about looking at alternative arrangements, her reluctance to move past the 29th of March I think is going to put a lot of pressure on what Westminster can do.”
In her efforts to break the impasse over her Brexit deal, May signalled she will seek changes rather than outright removing the backstop, which is designed to preserve the open border between Northern Ireland and European Union member state Ireland.
The border area was a flashpoint during decades of conflict, and the free flow of people and goods across the frontier underpins the region’s peace process.
May, during a speech Tuesday in Belfast, restated her “unshakable” commitment to avoiding a hard border and said she didn’t plan to remove the “insurance policy” entirely.
“What Parliament has said is that they believe there should be changes made to the backstop,” she said.
On Tuesday, the Telegraph reported that British cabinet ministers have secretly held talks on plans to delay Brexit by eight weeks. The delay would postpone Brexit to May 24.