Donald Tusk has said that Brexiteers who had no plan for the UK’s departure from the EU deserve a ‘special place in hell’.
The European Council President told a press briefing: “I have been wondering what the special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan to deliver it safely.”
The EU chief was met with immediate criticism from Brexiteers, who accused him of insulting leave voters.
Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said Mr Tusk should apologise for his ‘spiteful’ comments.
The prominent Eurosceptic told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “I think that what he has said is pretty unacceptable and pretty disgraceful.
“I’m sure that when he reflects on it he may well wish he hadn’t done it.”
The DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson called Mr Tusk a ‘devilish Euro maniac’ in response.
Mr Wilson said: “Donald Tusk once again shows his contempt for the 17.4 million people who voted to escape the corruption of the EU and seek the paradise of a free and prosperous kingdom.”
Brexiteer Labour MP Kate Hoye said: “This sums up in one sentence why we cannot wait to get out of this deeply anti-democratic institution headed up by deeply anti-democratic so-called Presidents.”
An EU official told Yahoo News UK: “President Tusk’s statement was very clear and precise.
“It is clearly not about the leave voters but about those who promoted Brexit without a plan.”
Pro-Remain Conservative MP Anna Soubry defended Mr Tusk’s comments, saying: “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.”
What’s next for Brexit?
Mr Tusk also said that the EU is stepping up preparations for the ‘fiasco’ of a no-deal Brexit.
In the speech he repeated the assertion that the deal agreed by the EU and Theresa May could not be renegotiated.
The PM is heading to Brussels this evening in a last-ditch attempt to secure changed to the Irish backstop, which is contained within the agreement, and which Brexiteers think would trap the UK under the EU’s power indefinitely.
Mr Tusk said: “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.”
“The EU is first and foremost a peace project.
“We will not gamble with peace or put a sell-by date on reconciliation. This is why we insist on the backstop.”
MPs voted last week in favour of replacing the Irish backstop, the mechanism to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, with ‘alternative arrangements’.
Is it unclear exactly what the arrangements would be, but Brexiteers insist that there are technological solutions that could be used to remove the need for customs checks at the border.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today said that he was ‘open to further discussions’ about the backstop, but the Withdrawal Agreement remained ‘the best deal possible’.
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.”