Belfast Telegraph

'Special place in hell' for no-plan Brexiteers: Tusk says Irish border 'top priority' and PM must 'guarantee peace'

European Council President Donald Tusk says there is a special place in hell for Brexiteers who advocated to leave the EU without even a "sketch of a plan".

The DUP's Sammy Wilson described it as a "disgraceful attack" on the millions that voted to leave the EU accusing the EU chief of attempting to overturn the referendum result.

"All he will succeed in doing is stiffening the resistance of those who have exercised their choice to be clear of Tusk and his trident wielding cabal," he added.

A No10 spokesman on said it was "a question for Donald Tusk whether he considers the use of that kind of language helpful, and I understand that was difficult this morning as he didn’t take any questions".

Mr Tusk made his remarks during a press conference alongside Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and a day before Prime Minister Theresa May is to fly to Brussels for talks.

Mr Tusk said the Prime Minister had to offer a guarantee of peace in Northern Ireland.

He said the Irish border was their "top priority" adding the EU27 had decided in December that the Withdrawal Agreement was "not open for renegotiation".

"I hope that tomorrow we will hear from Prime Minister May a realistic suggestion on how to end the impasse in which the process of the orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU has found itself following the latest votes in the House of Commons."

He added: "The EU is first and foremost a peace project," he said. "We will not gamble with peace or put a sell-by date on reconciliation. This is why we insist on the backstop."

In a message to Mrs May, Mr Tusk said: "Give us a deliverable guarantee for peace in Northern Ireland and the UK will leave the EU as a trusted friend.

"I hope that the UK Government will present ideas that will both respect this point of view and at the same time command a stable and clear majority in the House of Commons.

"I strongly believe that a common solution is possible and I will do everything in my power to find it."

Mr Tusk confirmed that the EU continues to prepare for a possible no-deal outcome.

He concluded: "By the way, I have been wondering what that special place in Hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan to carry it (through) safely."

Leo Varadkar said the solidarity shown by the EU for a small country "resonated not just in Ireland but in other small countries".

He said the actions of the Prime Minister and the British government outlined the need for the backstop and said Ireland was continuing to ramp up preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

The Withdrawal Agreement, he said remained "the best deal possible" but they were "open to further discussions" with the UK Government.

He said: "While we expect that the backstop will never be used, we agreed again today that it is needed as a legal guarantee to ensure that there is no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland while protecting the integrity of our European single market and customs union.

"I think the events in London and the instability in British politics in recent weeks demonstrates exactly why we need a legal guarantee and a solution that is operable, that we know will work and will last."

Mr Varadkar said that if the UK's intentions for the future relationship "were to evolve", the EU would be "prepared to adapt the content and level of ambition in the Political Declaration while respecting its established principles".

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.

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