Xavier Bettel, who succeeded European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker as Prime Minister of Luxembourg in 2013, has told the British press it is not too late to say “we love you” to the European Union (EU) and stop Brexit.
The former talk show host told reporters the UK should be able to turn back even after Article 50, the legal mechanism for beginning the Brexit process, is triggered.
“We are waiting for Article 50, I won’t do speculation, but it’s a procedure of divorce … now they ask for the divorce, we wait for the letter to confirm that they want a divorce, then we start the procedure of divorce,” he said.
“Maybe during the procedure of divorce they will say ‘we love you that much that we are not able to conclude that divorce’.”
Bettel’s statement will be music to the ears of the so-called ‘Remain Resistance’ led by Tony Blair, who told the Open Britain group that Remainers had two years to “rise up” and make the public “change their minds” in February 2017.
Gina Miller, the millionaire financier who is behind several legal challenges to Brexit, has also launched a new initiative, Campaign 2018, to keep “the possibility of [continued] membership” of the EU on the table.
Jarosław Kaczyński, chairman of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), has previously claimed there are two “camps” in the EU: “Some people really want to make it as tough as possible for the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, some of us would like to sustain a kind of partnership with the United Kingdom,” he said, stating that Poland belongs to “the second category of voices”.
Neighbouring Hungary is also pursuing a constructive relationship with Britain, arguing that attempts to “punish” the UK by introducing trade restrictions would be a “suicidal strategy”.
Luxembourg is thought to belong to the more hardline camp, with Prime Minister Bettel telling journalists before the referendum that the EU is “not a menu, a la carte, where you choose what you want”, and now complains the UK “want to have their cake, eat it, and get a smile from the baker”.
“Before, they were in and they had many opt-outs; now they want to be out with many opt-ins,” he claims. “We’re not on Facebook where there’s an ‘it’s complicated’ status.”
On migration, Bettel has called for EU members to “shut the frontiers” and “block all exchanges” for a day, “So that people see what it is to be outside Europe”.
However, when the Hungarian government introduced strong and effective border controls to halt the inflow of illegal migrants in 2015, Luxembourg foreign minister Jean Asselborn accused them of treating people like “wild animals”. Asselborn then called for the Central European country to “be excluded temporarily or forever from the EU … [this is] the only way to preserve the cohesion and values of the EU.”