Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan appeared to be all but dead on Tuesday night as the government admitted there was little prospect of a deal before Oct. 31, following a day of furious recriminations.
The British prime minister spoke to the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, on the phone after a stormy 24 hours of briefing and counter-briefing, as concerns about his tactics were even raised in Johnson’s cabinet.
In Brussels, a further extension that could be as long as next summer is now considered almost inevitable, despite Johnson’s continued insistence that the UK will leave on Oct. 31, with or without a deal.
A blame game erupted on Tuesday morning as the cabinet gathered in Downing Street when an anonymous source briefed selected journalists about a private call between the prime minister and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
The unnamed figure in No 10 claimed that Berlin’s insistence on keeping Northern Ireland in the EU customs union made a Brexit deal “essentially impossible, not just now but ever”.
That message infuriated Donald Tusk, the European council president, who tweeted directly at Johnson: “What’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. 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?)”
That sentiment was echoed by the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, who said “nobody would come out a winner” in a no-deal scenario.