The European Union accused Britain of playing a “stupid blame game” over Brexit on Tuesday after media reports cited Downing Street sources as saying that a deal was essentially impossible because German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made unacceptable demands.
In a sign that Johnson’s last-ditch proposals to bridge the Brexit impasse have failed, a Downing Street source said Merkel and Johnson had a frank exchange on Tuesday morning and she had made clear that a deal was “overwhelmingly unlikely”, Reuters reports.
The Downing Street source was quoted as saying that if Merkel’s position on Northern Ireland remaining in the EU’s customs union was the bloc’s position, then a deal would be impossible.
The biggest hurdle to a deal remains the post-Brexit border arrangements between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
“If this represents a new established position then it means a deal is essentially impossible not just now but ever,” the source told Reuters. Johnson insists Northern Ireland must leave the EU’s customs union with the rest of the UK.
A spokesman for the German chancellor confirmed the call had taken place but declined to comment further, the report said.
However, Norbert Roettgen, a senior Merkel ally, said there was no new German position on Brexit. “Frankly a deal on the basis of Johnson’s proposals by Oct. 31 has been unrealistic from the beginning…,” he said on Twitter.
The EU was scathing about Johnson’s stance.
“Boris Johnson, what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game,” European Council President Donald Tusk said on Twitter.
“At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?”
Such abrupt remarks indicate the Brexit blame game has begun in earnest, and that now both London and EU capitals are preparing for an acrimonious and potentially chaotic Brexit for which neither side wants to be held responsible.
Adding to the gloom, European Parliament President David Sassoli said after meeting Johnson on Tuesday there had been no progress in the Brexit talks.
“If his ideas are limited to what he presented to the negotiator (Michel) Barnier five days ago, it means that he doesn’t actually want an agreement,” Sassoli, an Italian, told reporters, speaking through a translator in London.
However, a Downing Street spokesman reiterated that Johnson wants to leave the EU with a deal and said the proposals he had made last week respected both the Good Friday peace agreement on the island of Ireland and the EU’s single market.
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