Tusk urged to apologise to Brexiteers over 'place in hell' comment

Jeannie Matthews
February 7, 2019

Mr Tusk said he and Mr Varadker had been discussing actions for the "possible fiasco" of a no-deal Brexit, before he ended his statement with the inflammatory comment.

In January, the House of Commons voted against the deal agreed by the European Union and the United Kingdom government and later passed an amendment calling for alternative solutions instead of Irish border backstop clause.

As the news conference in Brussels was winding down, Varadkar was picked up by a hot mic telling Tusk: "They'll give you awful trouble, the British, for this".

Tusk originally made the remarks during a joint press conference with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Brussels on Wednesday morning, and has since doubled down on the claim by tweeting it.

But Tusk, standing by Irish leader Leo Varadkar, warned once again that the divorce deal May agreed past year but failed to sell to her parliament will not be reopened.

"We will not gamble with peace or put a sell-by date on reconciliation, and this is why we insist on the backstop", Tusk said.

Tusk, a former Polish prime minister who openly regrets Britain's decision, seemed to be targeting the politicians who led the pro-Brexit campaigns in 2016, such as former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, the ex-leader of the UK Independence Party.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is set to visit Brussels on Thursday for a series of meetings with key figures in the European Union over her much-maligned Brexit plans.

The "top priority" for the bloc was to "maintain the peace process in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement", Tusk said.

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"The current backstop, as I have said all along, is toxic to those of us living in Northern Ireland", DUP leader Arlene Foster, who will meet May in Belfast on Wednesday, told BBC radio.

It will be her first chance to hold face-to-face talks with the bloc since her Withdrawal Agreement reached in November was rejected by the House of Commons.

In another stark indication of the stakes for Britain of a disorderly Brexit, Irish nationalists warned May that if she allowed a no-deal Brexit then there would have to be a referendum on Irish unity.

But Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's Brexit co-ordinator, responded to Mr Tusk's comments by saying that the Brexiteers "would even manage to divide hell".

The Irish prime minister suggested that MPs either didn't know what they were doing or were misled when they voted to look for alternatives to the Irish backstop.

"Ireland will not be the collateral damage of the Tory Brexit", she added.

"I hope that tomorrow we will hear from Prime Minister May a realistic suggestion on how to end the impasse", he said.

He said that in light of ongoing uncertainty in the UK, EU leaders have agreed that no-deal preparation must continue and intensify.

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