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Politics

Brexit supporters, pro-EU officials trade barbs as deadline nears

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives for a meeting with David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, during a meeting inside number 10 Downing Street in London, U.K., 08 October 2019.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives for a meeting with David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, during a meeting inside number 10 Downing Street in London, U.K., 08 October 2019. EPA/CHRIS RATCLIFFE / BLOOMBERG / INTERNATIONAL POOL

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures — and in these Brexit times, extraordinary words among leaders.

Some British officials have previously compared the European Union to Nazis and Soviets, and EU Council President Donald Tusk said there was “a special place in hell” for some Brexiteers.

Tuesday saw the latest chapter in vitriolic invective among two sides claiming they want the most loving split-up ever, but too often display fits of pique in what is heading for a fighting, flaming divorce that bodes ill for future co-operation between neighbours.

READ MORE: Ireland prepares for the worst with ‘no deal Brexit’ budget

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In a tweet dripping with anger, Tusk directly addressed Johnson at his twitter handle @BorisJohnson and gave him his fill about the fast crumbling Brexit negotiations:

“You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?” — Latin for “where are you heading?” and a reminder of a less harsh era of diplomacy.

Ireland PM says he’d consider Brexit extension if UK sought one
Ireland PM says he’d consider Brexit extension if UK sought one

It was a rhetorical question anyhow, since Tusk had already analyzed recent British behaviour when it came to Brexit and decided that Johnson mainly wanted to head for the EU’s exit door as soon as possible and pile all the blame for fraught negotiations heading toward failure onto Tusk and the EU.

“What’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game,” Tusk told Johnson. If it is still mild by the standards of the other Donald, U.S. President Donald Trump, it immediately set European media alight.

What raised his ire was a London anonymous government debrief which said that the EU was now “willing to torpedo the Good Friday Agreement,” which has kept the peace on the island of Ireland for the past two decade, and claimed that EU made sure that “a deal is essentially impossible.”

UK PM Boris Johnson says ‘some way’ off from Brexit resolution
UK PM Boris Johnson says ‘some way’ off from Brexit resolution

Those two elements have been anathema to EU and German thinking so far and both denied it. At EU headquarters it was seen as a ploy to simply blame the 27 remaining member states for whatever goes wrong before the official breakup.

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The German government said it never comments on such confidential telephone conversations between leaders and insisted it was still looking for a deal to avoid the chaotic exit.

That is now set for Oct. 31 if there is no last-minute turnaround for a deal. The deadline could still be extended.

READ MORE: U.K. PM Boris Johnson battling to overcome opposition to Brexit deal

Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP Northern Irish party aligned to Johnson, said that the idea her region would stay in an EU customs union was “beyond crazy. No. U.K. government could ever concede such a surrender.”

Johnson also likes to use the word surrender, as if the UK and EU were at war, calling Parliament’s anti no-deal bill the “surrender act.”

If not real war, it has turned into a war of words — which is nothing new for the British prime minister.

Tempers flare in London as British Parliament resumes
Tempers flare in London as British Parliament resumes

After all, Johnson once compared Brexit to Allied prisoners escaping German prison camps in “some sort of World War II movie.” And he already compared the EU’s aims to those of Adolf Hitler, arguing the bloc was trying to create a super state that mirrored the Nazi leader’s attempts to dominate the European continent.

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And only last year, then foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt likened the EU to the totalitarian Soviet Union.

Tuesday was not the first time Tusk was pushed to the brink by Brexiteers.

Federal Election 2019: Trudeau says Brexit is the ‘wrong choice’ for the U.K.
Federal Election 2019: Trudeau says Brexit is the ‘wrong choice’ for the U.K.

“I have been wondering what a special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of plan how to carry it out safely,” Tusk said early this year.

Tusk, Merkel and Johnson are slated to spend a long summit meeting together next week to decide on the fate of the Brexit negotiations. There will be plenty to talk about.