Anger among Brexiteers at Tusk’s ‘place in hell’ remark
DUP’s Sammy Wilson describes the European Council president as a ‘devilish, trident-wielding euro maniac’
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry speaking in the House of Commons. She called for Brexit to be postponed beyond March 29th. Photograph: House of Commons/PA Wire
Brexiteers have reacted with anger at Donald Tusk’s musing about the place in hell reserved for those who advocated leaving the EU without having a plan for how to do so. Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom, who played a prominent role in the Leave campaign in 2016, said the European Council president should apologise for his remarks.
“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,” she said.
“This is a negotiation between friends, allies, neighbours. It’s supposed to be collegiate and collaborative, and it totally demeans him.”
Veteran Conservative Eurosceptic Peter Bone raised a point of order in the House of Commons to complain about what he described as a “completely outrageous” insult.
“I don’t recall any president insulting members of this House, members of the government and the British people in such a way.”
DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson described Mr Tusk as a “devilish, trident-wielding euro maniac”, and former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said being free of “unelected arrogant bullies” like the European Council president sounded like heaven.
Asked if the comments would help to create the right atmosphere ahead of Theresa May’s meeting with Mr Tusk on Thursday, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “I think it is a question for Donald Tusk as to whether he considers the use of that kind of language to be helpful. I appreciate that was difficult this morning as he didn’t take any questions.”
Earlier, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said there was no indication from Brussels that the prime minister would receive anything other than a flat rejection of her demand to change the Northern Ireland backstop.
“None of them has given us any encouragement that the EU is willing to reopen the withdrawal agreement unless the prime minister is willing to reconsider the red lines on which the agreement is based,” she said to David Lidington, who stood in for Mrs May at prime minister’s questions.
“Does he not agree that the sensible, cautious thing to do at this late stage is to seek a temporary extension of article 50 so that we have time to see whether the negotiations succeed, or, if they do not, to pursue a different plan?”
Ms Thornberry is the most senior Labour figure to call explicitly for Brexit to be postponed beyond March 29th, although the party backed an amendment tabled by Yvette Cooper last week that would allow for such a delay.
Business secretary Greg Clark told a Commons committee on Wednesday that “many people on all sides of the House” would regard leaving the EU without a deal as unacceptable.
However, he said that extending the article 50 negotiating deadline would only serve to prolong the uncertainty that was damaging the British economy. “Pausing article 50 would not cure the uncertainty. In fact it would extend the uncertainty.”