THE prospect of a Brexit deal appeared to vanish last night as Downing Street and EU leaders angrily tried to pin the blame on each other.
Michael Gove told MPs Britain is now ready for a no-deal after Boris Johnson accused Germany of demanding the ‘impossible’ in the negotiations.
No.10 claimed chancellor Angela Merkel had insisted that the UK ‘leave Northern Ireland behind in a customs union for ever’ in a call to the prime minister yesterday.
Mr Johnson spoke to Irish PM Leo Varadkar and promised to meet him at the end of this week in a last-ditch bid to make a breakthrough. But European Council president Donald Tusk accused the Tory leader of jeopardising the future of both Europe and the UK.
‘Boris Johnson, what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game,’ he tweeted. ‘You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, where are you going?’
The European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said if the talks fail it will be Britain’s fault because: ‘The original sin is on the islands and not on the continent.’ Berlin refused to comment on the call but Mrs Merkel’s party accused No.10 of betraying the German leader’s trust and spinning her words.
‘It is completely improbable that the phone call took place in the way it has been reported,’ Christian Democratic Union spokesman Detlef Seif said.
The exchanges came after a Downing Street official — believed to be the PM’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings — warned a Brexit delay offer from any EU country will be seen as ‘hostile interference’.
Any of the other 27 EU nations can veto a delay if the PM is forced to obey parliament by asking for one on October 19. The official said Britain’s security relationships would be scaled back and any country backing a postponement would be at the ‘bottom of the queue’ for future co-operation.
‘We will focus on winning the election on a manifesto of immediately revoking the entire EU legal order without further talks, and then we will leave,’ they added.
‘Those who supported the delay will face the inevitable, being seen to interfere in domestic politics by colluding with a parliament as popular as the clap.’ The outburst led Northern Ireland secretary, Julian Smith, to stress nothing should be done to jeopardise security co-operation with Dublin. ‘Any threat on withdrawing it is unacceptable,’ he tweeted.
Mr Johnson spoke to Mrs Merkel about his plan to resolve the Brexit deadlock over the border in Ireland. He wants to take the whole UK out of the EU customs union and keep only Northern Ireland in the single market.
No.10 said Mrs Merkel had bragged that Germany could leave the EU ‘no problem’, while the UK would not be able to unless it forced Northern Ireland to stay in ‘full alignment’.
But an ex-cabinet minister backed the spin claims, saying the Downing Street account ‘was about as convincing as Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent’.
Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer said the PM had offered proposals ‘designed to fail’.
And after meeting Mr Johnson last night at No.10, European Parliament president David Sassoli said: ‘I must note there has been no progress.’
Mr Gove, minister in charge of no-deal planning, said businesses could look ahead with ‘confidence and certainty’ whatever happens. MPs were sent home as parliament was prorogued ahead of the Queen’s Speech on Monday.