Boris Johnson and Donald Tusk trade Brexit barbs ahead of G7
The president of the European Council said that the EU would refuse to co-operate with the UK prime minister if he chose to “go down in history as Mr No Deal”.
Although Mr Johnson said he was “absolutely clear” that he did not want to leave the EU without a deal, he responded by shifting the blame on to the EU. “I say to our friends in the EU: if they don’t want a no deal Brexit then we’ve got to get rid of the backstop from the treaty,” he said.
“If Donald Tusk doesn’t want to go down as Mr No Deal Brexit then I hope that point should be borne in mind by him too.”
Mr Tusk attempted to place responsibility firmly on the UK prime minister ahead of their meeting scheduled on Sunday on the margins of the G7 summit in the French coastal resort of Biarritz.
“The one thing I will not co-operate on is no deal,” Mr Tusk told reporters. “And I still hope that PM Johnson will not like to go down in history as Mr No Deal.”
He added: “We are willing to listen to ideas that are operational, realistic and acceptable to all member states, including Ireland, if and when the UK government is ready to put them on the table.”
A senior EU official further played down the prospect of movement from Mr Tusk, who this week met Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, to co-ordinate positions.
The bloc has so far stuck by its longstanding stance that — while tweaks to the political declaration agreed with Theresa May’s government may be possible — the withdrawal agreement will not be revised, despite Mr Johnson’s demands.
“Johnson has this idea that now he is on the scene we should reopen the withdrawal agreement — and that it’s our fault if this all goes to Hell,” the official said. “But we are not going to do anything other than what we have said for months.”
Mr Tusk infamously remarked there was a “special place in Hell” for “those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan”. When asked whether he was one of those in mind, Mr Johnson said he did not to want to critique him further.
“I have great relations with our friends and partners in the EU and I continue to improve them the whole time without getting into any post-Brexit eschatology with the president of the council.”
When asked about the UK’s plans to put forward an alternative to the Irish border backstop, Mr Johnson said he would be putting forward a “large range of alternative arrangements” in “the coming weeks”.