No sooner had the Donald Tusk bombshell landed than the Brexit bunfight fired up.
The EU leader’s musings about a “special place in hell” for those who championed Britain leaving the EU “without a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely” detonated another bitter row at a particularly delicate moment in the talks.
Brexiteers were incandescent.
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage dubbed Mr Tusk and his EU colleagues as “unelected, arrogant bullies”, Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, called him “spiteful” and Sammy Wilson of the DUP called him a “devilish euro maniac”.
“Out of order,” was the Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s response.
From Downing Street came a tone of resigned exasperation as the prime minister’s spokesperson said Mr Tusk might want to perhaps ask himself if his language was helpful.
Behind the scenes Mrs May could be forgiven for banging her head against the wall.
Incendiary language like this could not come at a worse time for the prime minister who is desperately trying to calm down her febrile Brexiteers rather than firing them up.
In Belfast this week and to Brussels tomorrow, she is trying to navigate a very narrow landing spot between her Brexiteers and the EU partners to get her exit agreement through the House of Commons.
Her ministers mutter that there is a deal to be done – particularly as concern grows from Dublin and the DUP over the prospect of no-deal.
But the vexed issue of the Irish backstop looms ever-large, and her fragile truce with her Brexiteers looks in danger of unravelling over rows over what Mrs May did or didn’t mean when she promised her party she’d replace the backstop with “alternative arrangements”.
The demands from her Brexit ultras are not just placing a strain on her and her team, it is also clearly exasperating EU leaders too.
Mr Tusk’s provocative remarks are a sign of his frustration as Mrs May returns to Brussels again on Thursday to win concessions at the eleventh hour on a deal they have all been working on for two years.
But this sort of name calling is the last thing either side needs with just 51 days to go before the UK is due to leave the EU.
It traduces the debate to playground politics rather than the serious statesmanship this moment requires.
Those who are hopeful for a deal insist it is not what Brussels says about the state of Britain’s Brexit paralysis but what its leaders actually do to help Mrs May get a deal across the line.
But the danger is that this sort of language hardens the British public against the EU and shifts them towards a no-deal.
Mr Tusk might be exasperated – but he would do well not to provide Brexiteers, who would walk away without a deal, more ammunition for their cause.