Theresa May will return to Brussels on Thursday to seek concessions from the EU despite continued resistance from Dublin its leaders to reopen the withdrawal agreement.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker described his job as “hell” on Wednesday evening after he was asked to comment on an earlier statement from European Council President Donald Tusk.
Mr Tusk said that there is a “special place in hell” for political leaders who promoted Brexit without “even a sketch of a plan” for how to “safely” deliver an orderly exit from the EU.
Theresa May’s spokesperson told reporters: “It’s a question for Donald Tusk whether he considers the use of that kind of language to be helpful”.
Sammy Wilson, the Brexit spokesperson for the Democratic Unionist Party, called Tusk a “devilish, trident-wielding, euro maniac.”
“I’m less Catholic than my good friend Donald. He strongly believes in heaven and by opposite in hell. I believe in heaven and I have never seen hell, apart [from] during the time I was doing my job here. It’s a hell,” Juncker said.
The European Council president’s uncharacteristically brusque comments were also made in a Twitter post, which was sent just minutes after the press conference.
There is little chance of the UK remaining in the EU as both May and Corbyn are “pro-Brexit” and there is “no effective leadership for Remain,” Tusk added.
The taoiseach said in a short speech that there will not be “any new offer” to Theresa May on the Brexit deal.
Mr Varadkar added that recent “instability in British politics” demonstrates why the EU needs the “legal guarantee” of the Irish backstop in place.
Both Varadkar and Tusk underlined that preparations are being intensified for a potentially disastrous no-deal scenario, which Tusk described as a “fiasco”.
“The position of the EU27 is clear, as expressed in the documents agreed with the UK Government – that is the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration,” Tusk said. “The EU27 is not making any new offer.”
Anna Soubry, the Tory MP, said: “Stand by for [Donald Tusk] to be wildly misquoted. He was speculating about the people who led Leave not the millions of good people they conned with fake promises they cannot deliver on.”
Theresa May is in Northern Ireland today holding cross-party talks with political representatives from across the region.
Yesterday, the prime minister used her speech in Belfast to claim the government will find a solution that “commands broad support across the community in Northern Ireland, and that secures a majority in the Westminster Parliament”.
“I am not proposing to persuade people to accept a deal that does not contain that insurance policy for the future,” she said, adding that she will not remove the backstop and will only “make changes” to it.
It remains unclear what changes may be accepted by the EU and the Irish government who have both declared – today included – that the withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened.
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, has called plans to alter the backstop arrangement “wishful thinking”.
In her most notable public appearance in Northern Ireland since the Brexit vote, Ms May suggested that an expiration date and the “potential indefinite nature” of the backstop – the agreement intended to prevent a hard border in Ireland – is what needs amending.
Although both the DUP and UUP, the two main parties of Ulster unionism, are united in their opposition to the withdrawal agreement and backstop as they currently exist, Northern Ireland’s business community and nationalist parties have been outspoken in their support for the backstop.
In her speech today, the prime minister also said that she wants the “strongest possible bilateral relationship with Ireland” and argued that that the UK’s relationship with Ireland is “deeper than its relationship with any other member of the EU27”.
“I’m here today to affirm my commitment, and that of the UK Government, to all of the people of Northern Ireland, of every background and tradition,” she said.
She noted how the Irish government had suggested the creation of annual meetings, where bilateral discussions ministers, the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister, to improve and develop Irish-UK relations.