Guy Verhofstadt, who will represent the European Parliament in the upcoming Brexit negotiations, has said the younger generation in Britain will take the country back into EU.
Verhofstadt confessed the relationship between Britain and Europe was “never a love affair”, but more a “marriage of convenience”. But he described the day Sir Time Barrow presented its Article 50 letter to European Council President Donald Tusk as “a very sad moment” nevertheless.
“It was impossible, maybe, to unite Great Britain with the Continent, and naive, maybe to [attempt to] reconcile the legal system of Napoleon with the common law of the British Empire, and perhaps it was never meant to be,” he admitted, to applause from UKIP MEPs.
“[But] I am also convinced and 100 per cent sure about one thing: that there will be, one day or another, dear colleagues, that there will be a young man or a young woman who will try again. Who will lead Britain again into the European family once again.”
I am 100% sure that – one day – there will be a young leader who will try again to lead Britain back into the European family. #EPlenary
— Guy Verhofstadt (@GuyVerhofstadt) April 5, 2017
Federalist MEPs applauded Verhofstadt’s bold prediction, while Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage laughed incredulously.
“The young generation,” Verhofstadt continued, “will see Brexit for what it really is: a catfight in the Conservative Party that got out of hand. A loss of time, a waste of energy, and, I think, stupidity.”
The one-time Belgian prime minister also spoke of “a deep and comprehensive partnership between the UK and the EU,” reminding MEPs of a wider European civilisation beyond the bloc, stretching from “the Atlantic port of Bristol to the banks of the mighty river Volga” in Russia.
In his capacity as an EU negotiator, however, he pushed an extremely hostile line, insisting the UK must pay a massive “divorce bill” before trade talks, and that any trade agreement should contain clauses preventing it undertaking a significant deregulation programme, lowering taxes, or supporting national industry in a way which would confer an “unfair” competitive advantage.
Nigel Farage described the bill as a “ransom” and said eurocrats were acting like “gangsters”.
“You’ve shown yourselves, with these demands, to be vindictive, to be nasty,” he told the chamber. “All I can say is, thank goodness we’re leaving!”