Wed | Oct 23, 2019

UK says chances of Brexit deal slim

Published:Tuesday | October 8, 2019 | 8:58 AM
Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray walks near Parliament in London, Tuesday, October 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON (AP) — Britain and the European Union traded bad-tempered barbs Tuesday as the chances of a Brexit deal appeared to fade, with just over three weeks until the U.K.’s scheduled departure from the bloc.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office blamed EU intransigence for a breakdown in negotiations, sparking a warning from a top EU leader against playing a “stupid blame game.”

Johnson’s office gave a gloomy assessment after a call between Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday morning.

In a statement to British media, Downing Street said Merkel had told the prime minister that “a deal is overwhelmingly unlikely” unless Northern Ireland remains in a customs union with the EU — something the U.K. says it can’t allow.

Downing Street said that “if this represents a new established position, then it means a deal is essentially impossible not just now but ever.”

The German government confirmed that Merkel and Johnson had spoken by phone on Tuesday.

It didn’t comment on the substance of the discussion, saying in an emailed response to a query that “as usual, we are not reporting on such confidential conversations.”

The EU denied its position had changed.

European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said “the EU position has not changed. We want a deal. We are working for a deal with the U.K.”

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted testily that “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,” he said, addressing Johnson.

“You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?” — a Latin phrase meaning “where are you going?”

Johnson insists the U.K. will leave the EU on October 31 even without a deal.

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