Brexit promoters deserve a 'special place in hell,' EU official says
European Council president says U.K. won't get new divorce deal offer
European Council President Donald Tusk blasted British politicians who lobbied for the United Kingdom 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 its 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 and former U.K. Independence Party Leader 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."
Delay vs. no-deal Brexit
Tusk and Varadkar said EU nations were intensifying their preparations for a "no-deal" British exit — a possibly disastrous development that could inflict heavy economic and political damage in the U.K. and the EU alike.
"A sense of responsibility also tells us to prepare for a possible fiasco," Tusk said.
May's opponents, meanwhile, urged the government to delay Brexit, saying Britain is unprepared to leave on March 29. Labour Party foreign policy spokesperson Emily Thornberry said such a postponement would allow "time to see whether the negotiations succeed or, if they do not, to pursue a different plan."
"We have a government treading water in the Niagara River while the current is taking us over the falls," she told lawmakers in the House of Commons.
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.
Backstop on 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.
CBC's The National examines whether Brexit could end Irish peace:
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 EU 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.
- A previous version of this story said the Irish government opposes the backstop. The Irish government, in fact, opposes the reimposition of a hard border with the U.K. The backstop is intended to prevent that.Feb 05, 2019 7:07 PM ET
With files from Reuters