European Council President Donald Tusk has rejected UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s request to strip the backstop out of the Brexit deal, with a thinly-veiled message that the British government was refusing to admit the lack of realistic alternatives.
Tusk, the president of the European council, issued the EU’s first official response, after Johnson published his letter on Monday night, calling for the “undemocratic” backstop to be scrapped.
The EU response underscores the stalemate over the backstop, a policy intended to avoid the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland. The UK government agreed the backstop under Theresa May, but hardline Brexiters have long called for it to be scrapped or subject to a time limit.
Tusk wrote: “The backstop is an insurance to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland unless and until an alternative is found. Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support re-establishing a border. Even if they do not admit it.”
In a sign of the EU’s carefully coordinated response, the European Commission issued its own statement minutes later, saying it shared Tusk’s view.