World

EU's Tusk rebuffs May, and says Brexiteers deserve a place in hell

Reuters

The European Union will make no new offer on Brexit and those who promoted Britain’s exit without any understanding of how to deliver it deserve a special place in hell, Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday.

The United Kingdom is on course to leave the European Union on March 29 without a deal unless Prime Minister Theresa May can convince the bloc to reopen the divorce deal she agreed in November and then sell it to skeptical British lawmakers.

As companies and governments across Europe step up preparations for the turmoil of a no-deal exit, diplomats and officials said the United Kingdom now faces three main options: a no-deal exit, a last-minute deal or a delay to Brexit.

Rebuffing May’s bid to renegotiate just a day before she is due in Brussels, Tusk said he wished the United Kingdom would reverse Brexit but that the bloc was preparing for a disorderly British exit as it would not gamble on peace in Ireland.

He said he no longer believed there was a way to stop Britain leaving due to the “pro-Brexit stance” of both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition.

“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 at a joint news conference with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

The remark, which will anger Brexit supporters in Britain, was tweeted from his account as he spoke the words, indicating it was not an off-the-cuff remark.

Brexiteer Nigel Farage responded: “After Brexit we will be free of unelected, arrogant bullies like you — sounds like heaven to me.”

Varadkar said the Brexit deal, which was rejected by the U.K. parliament, was “the best possible.” He said Britain’s political instability was another proof of why the backstop was needed.

At meetings in Belfast, May tried to tackle the biggest obstacle to getting a deal ratified by the British parliament — an insurance policy covering the possible future arrangements for the border between EU-member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

May said she would seek an alternative arrangement that avoids the need for a hard border or legally binding changes to the border backstop to introduce a time limit or create an exit mechanism.

Brexit has snagged on the 310-mile (500-km) frontier because there is disagreement on how to monitor trade without physical checks on the border, which was marked by military checkpoints before a 1998 peace deal ended three decades of sectarian conflict.

As a way to prevent a hard border, Brussels and London agreed a so-called backstop — basically a promise that unless the sides come up with a better idea then the United Kingdom would remain bound by EU market and customs rules so that goods would not have to be checked.

But the Northern Irish party that props up May’s government says it could endanger the province’s place in the United Kingdom, while Brexit supporters in May’s Conservative Party worry it would lock the country into EU rules for the long term.

British ministers, The Sun newspaper said, have been examining a plan drawn up by Japan’s Fujitsu to track trade across the border, while the Telegraph said ministers had discussed delaying Brexit by eight weeks.