‘Stupid blame game’: Donald Tusk berates Boris Johnson as hopes of a deal fade

The Sydney Morning Herald wrote:

Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney also weighed in to back Tusk’s comments.

“Hard to disagree [Tusk] reflects the frustration across EU and the enormity of what’s at stake for us all,” he said.

“We remain open to finalise a fair Brexit deal but need a UK Govt [sic] willing to work with EU to get it done,” he tweeted.

'Stupid blame game': Donald Tusk berates Boris Johnson as hopes of a deal fade - The Reports

Donald Tusk, left, and Boris Johnson at the United Nations last month.Credit:AP

Tusk’s tweet was prompted by two anonymous briefings to the British press, citing Number 10 sources.

The most recent came after a phone call between Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson.

Sky UK, quoting a Number 10 source, reported Merkel made it clear on the call that a deal is “overwhelmingly unlikely” and that Northern Ireland would have to stay in the Customs Union forever.

“The call with Merkel showed the EU has adopted a new position,” the source told Sky. “It also made clear that they are willing to torpedo the Good Friday Agreement.”

The Good Friday Agreement says there will be no border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. But to date, there has been no acceptable solution to both sides, on how to preserve the integrity of the EU, which would finish at the border of Ireland, while at the same time maintaining the current seamless flow of goods across into Northern Ireland, which after Brexit would be part of the UK only.

The Chancellor’s office did not comment on the contents of the conversation but confirmed it took place.

The briefing followed a report published late Monday night by The Spectator, quoting a Number 10 source, predicting Brexit talks would break down this week.

The briefing sheeted home the blame to Europe and in particular, Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

“The negotiations will probably end this week. Varadkar doesn’t want to negotiate,” the report said.

“There are quite a few people in Paris and Berlin who would like to discuss our offer but Merkel and Macron won’t push Barnier unless Ireland says it wants to negotiate. Those who think Merkel will help us are deluded.”

The source further suggested Britain would preference EU member states who support Britain for future preferential treatment on cooperation, including on security matters.

“We will make clear privately and publicly that countries which oppose delay will go to the front of the queue for future cooperation – cooperation on things both within and outside EU competences. Those who support delay will go to the bottom of the queue.”

Britain’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith, who has constantly fended off speculation he is considering quitting Johnson’s cabinet over the government’s Brexit strategy, fired a warning shot, also on Twitter.

“I am clear that any threat on withdrawing security cooperation with Ireland is unacceptable. This is not in the interest of NI or the Union,” he said.

But Johnson was backed by the Chair of the internal Tory eurosceptic grouping of MPs – the European Research Group (ERG) – Steve Baker, who said Johnson was right not to cede Northern Ireland to the EU.

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“We’d like a deal. We’d like to end up in a relationship of the character the EU offered us last year. For the whole UK,” he said.

“But the EU has been encouraged by our weak and incompetent Parliament to think Northern Ireland is the price. That’s wrong. Boris is right to defend our Union.

The breakdown increases the prospects for a no-deal Brexit and also a general election but it remains unclear how these will be achieved.

The Commons recently passed an act effectively prohibiting a no-deal Brexit, forcing Johnson to seek an extension if an exit deal with the EU isn’t struck by the end of October.

Johnson is adamant Brexit will happen on October 31 and says he will obey the law of the land, but is refusing to state how both outcomes can be achieved.

He has sought a general election to seek a majority for his Brexit strategy but under the Fixed Term Parliament Act requires two-thirds of the Parliament’s support. This has yet to materialise, as Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn says he will only agree to a snap poll once no-deal Brexit has been averted.

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