EU accuses Boris Johnson of playing ‘stupid blame game’ as relations sour

European Council President Donald Tusk responded by claiming that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had no intention of concluding a Brexit deal, and accused him of playing a “stupid blame game.”

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The bad-tempered exchanges indicated that relations between the two sides have become deeply strained, with the deadline for the UK’s departure from the European Union looming and no deal yet agreed.

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The bitterness appears to have flowed from a telephone call between Johnson and Merkel in which the two sides failed to agree on the thorny issue of the post-Brexit status of Northern Ireland, a fraught question that has dogged the talks.

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An official UK government spokesperson admitted there had been a “full and frank exchange of views” on the call with Merkel — diplomatic code for an argument.

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According to a different senior government source, Johnson laid blame on the EU for a failure to engage with new proposals he presented to the EU last week. According to the source, Johnson also claimed that “some” European officials are “clearly hoping a second referendum will reverse Brexit,” but assured Merkel that this “will not happen.”

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The source said Downing Street was downbeat about the potential for a deal. “Talks in Brussels are close to breaking down despite the fact that the UK had moved a long way,” the source said.

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After similar briefings appeared in the UK media on Tuesday, Tusk responded harshly. “What’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game,” Tusk posted on Twitter in a comment aimed directly at Johnson. “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 [where are you going]?”

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Germany pointedly refused to comment on the call with Merkel. “As is customary, we don’t report from such confidential conversations,” a German government spokesman said.

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Even as Downing Street expressed pessimism about the outcome of talks, British and EU negotiators were meeting in Brussels for technical discussions Tuesday. “These talks are reaching a critical point,” the UK governemtn spokesman said. “The UK has moved a long way, and now we need to see movement from the EU side.”

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Johnson unveiled his Brexit blueprint on October 2, which was welcomed by hardliners within his own Conservative party but dismissed by many European officials as a non-starter.

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The next summit of EU leaders is on October 17 and 18 and time is running out for both parties to negotiate a new deal by the latest Brexit deadline of October 31.

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If the PM doesn’t get a deal by October 19, he is obliged by law to seek a new extension to the Brexit process. But Johnson has long maintained that he would take the UK out of the European Union on October 31 “do or die.”

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