European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who's prone to trolling his counterparts, has made a somewhat frustrating confession about the job he's doing during a Brussels press conference on Brexit.
When asked if he agreed with EU Council President Donald Tusk that there was a "special place in hell" for Brexiteers, Juncker came up with a witty response:
"I’m less Catholic than my good friend Donald. He strongly believes in heaven and by opposite in hell. I believe in heaven and I’ve never seen hell, apart from the time I was doing my job here. It’s hell", he said with a chuckle, igniting a roar of laughter from reporters.
The journalist made a reference to Tusk's criticism of the UK's divorce from the European Union and the withdrawal deal that the British authorities have been trying to alter, despite the fact that it had already been agreed upon with the bloc.
I've been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted #Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) 6 февраля 2019 г.
Juncker, in the meantime, has stressed that the so-called Irish backstop plan in any Brexit deal was not subject to renegotiation.
"Brexit is not a bilateral question between the Republic of Ireland and the UK… It’s a European issue and that’s why we cannot accept the idea that the withdrawal agreement could be reopened", he said.
Despite the EU's hard-line stance on the Brexit deal, UK Prime Minister Theresa May is set to return to Brussels on Thursday seeking new concessions while meeting with Juncker and Tusk.
May is expected to call on EU leaders to apply changes to the terms of the Brexit agreement, concerning the Irish backstop.
"The UK’s objective is to find a way to guarantee we cannot, and will not, be trapped in the backstop. The Prime Minister is open to different ways to achieve this, but is clear it must be legally binding and therefore will require changes to the Withdrawal Agreement", the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
Downing Street also stressed that UK lawmakers had signalled they would support the deal in case changes to the Irish backstop were made:
"The EU shares the UK’s commitment to leave with a deal. We must show determination and do what it takes to now get the deal over the line. The meetings today are part of a process leading to the government bringing back the Meaningful Vote [on the Brexit deal in the parliament] as soon as possible".
May previously rejected calls for a second Brexit referendum, emphasising that the UK should not postpone its divorce from the European Union, which is expected to take place on 29 March.