Published: Thu, February 07, 2019
Markets | By Erika Turner

Tusk's 'place in hell' remark for Brexit backers stirs backlash

Tusk's 'place in hell' remark for Brexit backers stirs backlash

REUTERS/Yves Herman EU Council President Donald Tusk and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar leave after giving statements about their meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 6, 2019.

Donald Tusk made the jibe in a press conference alongside Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Brussels, in which he reiterated the Brexit withdrawal agreement signed off in December was not up for renegotiation.

But as Tusk's pointedly blunt language showed, frustration runs deep among European leaders over the British parliament's rejection of the divorce deal and May's demands that the EU now give up on key principles or face disruption in just 50 days.

Mr Tusk gave no indication that the other 27 European Union countries will be up for reopening the Brexit withdrawal agreement that British Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated but which was overwhelmingly rejected by United Kingdom lawmakers. "We will not gamble with peace or put a sell-by date on reconciliation", Tusk said.

He added that he had agreed with Mr Tusk that "in light of the ongoing uncertainty in London and the fast-approaching deadline" preparations for a no-deal Brexit must intensify.

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 agreement she reached in November and then sell it to sceptical British lawmakers.

Tusk said he hopes she will bring to Brussels "a realistic suggestion on how to end the impasse".

She told an audience of business leaders and journalists that she wanted to "affirm my commitment to delivering a Brexit that ensures no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which is unshakeable".

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"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.

However, Mr Tusk is unfazed and laughs: "I know".

"They are people who have acted with absolute contempt for this country, utter disregard for the experiences of Irish people north and south, with utter disregard for the peace process that has been collectively built over decades", McDonald said.

In search of elusive unity, May met Wednesday with the DUP, which insists the backstop must be scrapped, and with other Northern Ireland parties who insist it must stay.

The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has propped up May's government since she lost her parliamentary majority in a 2017 snap election, said it wanted to get a deal agreed but the border backstop had to be replaced.

"The EU is first and foremost a peace project".

Critics of the backstop argue its lack of any agreed time-limit is unacceptable as it could see the United Kingdom locked into a customs union deal with the EU indefinitely and Northern Ireland kept under EU single market rules.

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