The UK’s European Commissioner has warned of the European Union (EU) seeking ‘revenge’ on Britain in the event of a Brexit vote out of a “deep sense of rejection” and in reaction to Boris Johnson’s recent comments on Hitler.
Jonathan Hill, the UK’s European Commissioner with responsibility for ‘Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union’, yesterday attacked Leave supporters in general and Boris Johnson in particular for damaging “the British economy, jobs and growth” by voting for Brexit.
Although the European Commission has said it will not campaign actively in the referendum — a position backed by President Jean-Claude Juncker who told a German audience he will not be campaigning for a Remain vote because he believes “the European Commission is even more disliked in Britain than in Germany” — Lord Hill used a speech at the London School of Economics to make his point.
Talking about post-Brexit negotiations, he referred to Mr. Johnson’s recent interview with The Sunday Telegraph which saw the leading Brexit campaigner dismiss the ‘European Project’ with the comment: “Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically.” Lord Hill said:
“There is absolutely no reason to believe that discussions would be quick or easy. Greenland’s negotiation with the EU simply as an overseas territory — the closest precedent — took three years even though there was really only one subject to talk about, fish.
“Britain’s European partners want Britain to stay… They clearly think that if Britain leaves it would be damaging for the European Union and their own national interests at a time when Europe faces serious challenges.
“So from what I hear working in Brussels, listening to the national governments of the countries of Europe, I believe there would be a deep sense of rejection felt by Britain’s European partners — particularly given that some of the Leave campaigners have spent many years accusing them of incompetence, corruption and comparing them recently to the darkest figures in European history: you name it, they’ve said it.”
Lord Hill’s criticism was clearly aimed as much at Mr. Johnson’s recent comment as his career in journalism, where he carved a eurosceptic niche for himself as The Daily Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent.
Lord Hill said that European citizens would look to their leaders post-Brexit to “stand up for their national interests” in fighting to secure “competitive advantage” over a country they would no longer regard as a partner. He explained:
“If Britain chooses to become a competitor rather than a partner, why wouldn’t they seek a competitive advantage in the new relationship?
“To build up their financial services sector. To roll out the red carpet to our bankers, insurers and asset managers.
“And might I gently suggest that the best way to warm up the people with whom Britain would in future be negotiating in these vitally important talks isn’t to compare their ambitions with those of the Third Reich?”
Chief Spokesperson of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, claimed Lord Hill’s intervention does not make the Commission “party to the campaign” saying: “We haven’t been and we won’t be.” He added:
“However it may be the case that Commissioners in the context of their duties will have dealings with the UK and it is perfectly compatible with our basic position.
“Jonathan Hill is in the UK to talk about financial services. In the context of that sort of trip it is a different matter.
“It is not direct participation in the referendum campaigns. It is part of their daily work and in the context of the Commissioners’ duties.”