A top European Union leader on Wednesday said there must be a place in hell for those in the United Kingdom who triggered Brexit without any kind of plan in place.
President of the European Council Donald Tusk made the affirmation during a press conference in Brussels alongside Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar as the pair discussed the UK's withdrawal from the EU, including the possibility of having to manage a scenario whereby the country departs the bloc without a deal in place.
"By the way, I have been wondering what the special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan on how to carry it out safely," Tusk said.
As the conference wrapped up, Taoiseach Varadker was caught by the microphones telling Tusk that "they'll give you terrible trouble, the British, for this."
Tusk responded with laughter saying: "I know."
Criticism from pro-Brexit politicians in the UK rolled in soon after Tusk's comments.
"Donald Tusk once again shows his contempt for the 17.4 million people who voted to escape the corruption of the EU and seek the paradise of a free and prosperous Kingdom," Sammy Wilson, a Member of Parliament for Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, wrote on Twitter.
"This devilish euro maniac is doing his best to keep the United Kingdom bound by the chains of EU bureaucracy and control," added the MP, whose unionist party serves as a confidence and supply partner for Prime Minister Theresa May's minority Conservative Party government.
Nigel Farage, an outspoken pro-Brexit member of the European Parliament and former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, also weighed in.
"After Brexit we will be free of unelected, arrogant bullies like you and run our own country. Sounds more like heaven to me," he said.
The discussions between Varadkar and Tusk in Brussels where held as the UK PM met with politicians and business representatives in Northern Ireland during a two-day visit aimed at allaying concerns there over the possibility that a no-deal Brexit could lead to the resurrection of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
The tour of Northern Ireland, which is soon to become the UK's external land frontier with the EU as it borders the Republic of Ireland, came after UK lawmakers rejected May's withdrawal deal with the EU – the product of 18 months of negotiations – largely down to opposition to the Irish backstop, an insurance policy designed to protect the open status of the border should future talks with Brussels collapse.
On Jan. 29, lawmakers in the House of Commons, the UK's lower chamber, passed an amendment on May's deal requiring the PM to return to Brussels in a bid to renegotiate the backstop, an endeavor she is due to begin Thursday, when she is penciled in to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
May is expected to request that the backstop is either replaced with an as-yet-unspecified alternative or insist on legally-binding alterations are added, which could include an ability to withdraw from it unilaterally and a concrete expiry date.
The EU has firmly said it would not reopen the withdrawal agreement and Ireland has remained adamant that a backstop is essential.
Tusk once again lamented the UK's decision to withdraw from the bloc, a decision the electorate made in a referendum in June 2016.
"I know that still a great number of people in the UK and on the continent as well as in Ireland wish for a reversal of this decision," he said in Brussels. "I have always been with you with all my heart," he added.
He said he regretted that no political force in the UK backed the remain position; the UK's Labour Party, which is the official opposition to May's minority Conservative Party government, has so far ruled out a second referendum
May has found herself compromised in her efforts to pass the withdrawal deal through the Commons.
The Irish backstop clause in its current form has stoked rebellions among pro-Brexit Conservative MPs, who fear it could bind the UK to the EU indefinitely as well as from DUP who fear Northern Ireland would be kept in customary alignment with the Republic of Ireland, and therefore the EU, rather than the rest of the UK if the backstop was triggered.
Such an arrangement, they say, would in effect push the current border into the Irish Sea, between the island of Ireland and Great Britain.
The open border, a now-invisible, 499-kilometer (310-mile) line running through countryside, farmland and bisecting main roads and even rivers, is enshrined in an international peace deal that in 1998 helped to extinguish decades of sectarian and political violence in Northern Ireland; a period known as the Troubles.
Over 3,000 people died during the Troubles, which saw unionist paramilitaries from largely Protestant areas, who consider themselves to be British, and republican militias from largely Catholic areas who sought a re-unified Ireland, traded terror
Tusk said he hoped May would offer up a "realistic" solution to the current Brexit impasse.
"We will not gamble with peace, or put a sell-by date on reconciliation, this is why we insist on the backstop," Tusk said. "Give us a believable guarantee for peace in Northern Ireland and the UK will leave the EU as a trusted friend, I hope that the UK government will present ideas that will both respect this point of view and at the same time a command a stable and clear majority in the House of Commons," he added.
The UK is on track to leave the EU on Mar. 29.