Unguarded remarks from European Council President Donald Tusk reveal he wants politicians who promoted Brexit without a plan of how to carry it out to find a special place in hell.
Leave campaigners in Britain have reacted angrily to his comments, accusing him of arrogance.
Meanwhile, a Downing Street spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May declined to comment, merely saying “it was a question for Mr Tusk whether he considers the use of that kind of language helpful”.
Tusk voiced his opinion at a press conference following talks with Irish premier Leo Varadkar, who was heard to say to him: “They’ll give you terrible trouble in the British press for that.”
Tusk was seen to nod agreement and both men laughed as they left the room.
Tusk’s words were repeated in a Tweet, which was later deleted, which read: “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.”
Later, Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, Tweeted: “Well, I doubt Lucifer would welcome them, as after what they did to Britain, they would even manage to divide hell.”
Ardent Brexiteer and former UKIP leader MEP Nigel Farage tweeted: “After Brexit we will be free of unelected, arrogant bullies like you and run our own country. Sounds more like heaven to me.”
Disgraceful and spiteful
Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, who also campaigned for Brexit, said Tusk should apologise for his “disgraceful” and “spiteful” comments.
Tusk and Varadkar were meeting in advance of Theresa May flying to Brussels to try to redraft the withdrawal agreement clauses containing the Northern Ireland back-stop plans. The back-stop seems to be the sticking point stopping MPs from ratifying the agreement.
However, the EU says the agreement is closed and final even though the back-stop is never meant to be triggered and is only in the document as a fall-back position should Britain and the EU fail to agree a trade treaty.
May hopes to put the deal back before parliament on February 14.