Relations between the European Union and the British government soured badly on Tuesday after Downing Street indicated that Brexit talks were on the verge of collapse and blamed German chancellor Angela Merkel for their failure.
European Council President Donald Tusk responded by claiming that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had no intention of concluding a Brexit deal, and accused him of playing a "stupid blame game."
The bad-tempered exchanges indicated that relations between the two sides have become deeply strained, with the deadline for the UK's departure from the European Union looming and no deal yet agreed.
The bitterness appears to have flowed from a telephone call between Johnson and Merkel in which the two sides failed to agree on the thorny issue of the post-Brexit status of Northern Ireland, a fraught question that has dogged the talks.
An official UK government spokesperson admitted there had been a "full and frank exchange of views" on the call with Merkel -- diplomatic code for an argument.
According to a different senior government source, Johnson laid blame on the EU for a failure to engage with new proposals he presented to the EU last week. According to the source, Johnson also claimed that "some" European officials are "clearly hoping a second referendum will reverse Brexit," but assured Merkel that this "will not happen."
The source said Downing Street was downbeat about the potential for a deal. "Talks in Brussels are close to breaking down despite the fact that the UK had moved a long way," the source said.