EU Council President Donald Tusk today blasted Boris Johnson and David Davis – and said he hopes their shock departures will stop Brexit.
The Brussels chief warned that while the two Brexit-backing Cabinet ministers have left Theresa May’s Government ‘the problems they cause remain’.
And he suggested that the Government meltdown could stop Britain’s historic decision to quit the bloc in its tracks.
Mr Tusk wrote on Twitter: ‘Politicians come and go but the problems they have created for people remain.
‘I can only regret that the idea of Brexit has not left with Davis and Johnson. But…who knows?’
His comments came after an EU diplomat compared Mr Davis’ decision to quit as Brexit Secretary to ‘rats’ leaving a ‘sinking ship’.
Earlier, Sophie in ‘t Veld, deputy to EU Parliament negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, said Mr Davis was right to warn Theresa May’s proposals were ‘difficult’ for the EU.
The claims emerged despite the official position of the European Commission being to insist the resignation would not hamper the negotiations.
Elsewhere in Europe today, Dublin reacted calmly to the news – pointing out Mrs May was responsible for her Cabinet and welcoming Friday’s agreement on a Brexit blueprint.
One EU diplomat told the Telegraph: ‘Davis’ resignation will be framed as not taking responsibility for a soft Brexit but looks more like not taking responsibility at all.
‘It is starting to look like the flight of the Brexiteers.’
They added: ‘They landed your country in a mess and now they’re leaving for higher ground. Rats and sinking ships…that age old tale.’
Liberal MEP Ms in ‘t Veld warned the ‘clock is ticking’ to find a Brexit deal that limits damage to both the UK and EU.
The Commission’s chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas insisted today the resignation of Mr Davis would not hit the talks.
Ms in ‘t Veld told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘It’s difficult. The clock is ticking. We really want an agreement that is going to control the damage.
‘I don’t believe in this whole idea of a successful Brexit. This is all damage limitation.
‘As time is running out we really need to find a deal that will limit the harm inflicted on both sides and this does not help.’
The MEP said the outlines of Mrs May’s plan did not look encouraging.
She said: ‘There will be no unpicking of the internal market.
‘It remains very difficult to see how we can separate goods from services, persons and capital.
‘It’s hard to imagine how that can be done.’
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker spoke to Mrs May on Sunday about the Chequers plan, a spokesman in Brussels said.
He told reporters the EU would ‘continue to negotiate in good faith’ with the Prime Minister following the resignation of Mr Davis.
One diplomat in Brussels told the Sun’s Nick Gutteridge: ‘We’re already used to negotiating with Olly Robbins, so this resignation doesn’t really affect the negotiations.’
They added: ‘It’s difficult to predict [what will happen] however we’re happy that the British govt has finally agreed which path to take, and so the situation is a lot more clear now.’
Asked if the resignation would derail the negotiatons, Commission spokesman Mr Schinas replied: ‘Not for us. We are here to work.’
Mr Schinas said the Commission did ‘not have a specific comment’ about the resignation and refused to be drawn when asked to pay tribute to the outgoing Cabinet minister.
He said the Commission was ‘available 24/7’, including over the summer, to discuss Brexit.
He added: ‘In this house it is very clear that our position has always been very cool.
‘We avoided positioning the Commission in terms of psychological elements – concern, enthusiasm, disappointment and so on. We are here to do a job.’
A spokesman for the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar suggested Mr Davis’ resignation did not make a major difference.
The spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister speaks for the British cabinet on Brexit and matters affecting the British cabinet are a matter for the Prime Minister.
‘We welcome the fact that the British cabinet agreed collectively on detailed proposals for the future relationship between the EU and Britain on Friday and we look forward to seeing greater detail in the UK’s White Paper later this week.
‘There’s still a lot of work to do, particularly from the British side. Time is running out.
‘The commitments the UK has already signed up to must be translated into the Withdrawal Agreement and we need to intensify efforts on all outstanding issues, especially the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.’
Before Mr Davis’ resignation, EU diplomats criticised Mrs May’s new Brexit plan for taking a ‘have cake and eat it’ approach to the single market.
The Prime Minister will have to water down her proposals even further to please Brussels and strike a deal, European leaders and officials believe.
EU negotiators have been guarded in their response to the hard-won Brexit blueprint signed off by the Cabinet on Friday and have left the door open for further talks.
They want to study the full 120-page White Paper – to be published by Downing Street on Thursday – but yesterday expressed scepticism about whether the new British plan will be acceptable to Brussels.
One diplomatic source said: ‘It’s about the White Paper at the moment. It’s important to wait for that detail. We can’t be sure about anything until we see it.
‘But what is being said about goods still has a ‘have cake and eat it’ feeling. That will be the sticking point.
‘The way it’s seen in relation to the single market is, you don’t just swallow one bit, you swallow all of it.’