EU chief Donald Tusk says there is a 'special place in hell' for Brexiteers – before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar overheard agreeing with him
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EU chief Donald Tusk says there is a 'special place in hell' for Brexiteers – before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar overheard agreeing with him

EUROPEAN Council President Donald Tusk has raised eyebrows by saying there is a "special place in hell" for people who supported Brexit without "even a sketch" of a plan in place.

In a speech alongside Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Brussels today, the EU chief launched an extraordinary attack on those who campaigned for a Leave vote in the Brexit referendum in June 2016.

Mr Tusk said: "I've been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely."

After the two leaders finished their statements, Mr Varadkar was caught on microphone telling Mr Tusk he would get in "terrible trouble from the British press" over his outburst.

Mr Tusk could be heard replying: "Yes, I know", before the Irish PM responded: "But I know you're right."

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The former Polish Prime Minister then posted the same words on his Twitter account immediately afterwards.

Minutes prior, Mr Tusk had also said: "I know that still a very great number of people in the UK, and on the continent, as well as in Ireland, wish for a reversal of this decision. I have always been with you, with all my heart.

"But the facts are unmistakable. At the moment, the pro-Brexit stance of the UK prime minister, and the Leader of the Opposition, rules out this question.

"Today, there is no political force and no effective leadership for Remain. I say this without satisfaction, but you can't argue with the facts".

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is set to visit Brussels on Thursday for a series of meetings with key figures in the EU over her much-maligned Brexit plans.

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It will be her first chance to hold face-to-face talks with the bloc since her Withdrawal Agreement reached in November was rejected by the House of Commons.

Mr Tusk said the EU would insist on the Irish border backstop being included in any approved deal as a "top priority" to preserve peace.

But he admitted both himself and Mr Varadkar were preparing for the "possible fiasco" of a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Tusk added: "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... following the latest votes in the House of Commons.

"The EU is first and foremost a peace project.

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"We will not gamble with peace or put a sell-by date on reconciliation. This is why we insist on the backstop."

The EU has consistently demanded the backstop as a legally-binding insurance policy to ensure the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic remains regardless of future UK/EU relations.

Critics of the backstop argue its lack of any agreed time-limit is unacceptable as it could see the UK locked into a customs union deal with the EU indefinitely and Northern Ireland kept under EU single market rules.

Speaking in Belfast yesterday, Mrs May made an "unshakeable" commitment to securing a Brexit deal that rules out a hard border on the island of Ireland.

She told an audience of business leaders and journalists that she wanted to "affirm my commitment to delivering a Brexit that ensures no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which is unshakeable.

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"Northern Ireland does not have to rely on the Irish Government or the European Union to prevent a return to borders of the past.

"The UK Government will not let that happen. I will not let that happen."

Mrs May also promised to "work closely with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Irish Government to strengthen the bilateral relationship we have built" between Britain and Ireland.