The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, has described Britain’s upcoming snap election as an attempted “power grab” by Theresa May, and vowed it will not soften the EU’s hardline negotiating stance.
“It appears this election is being driven by the opportunism of the party in government, rather than by the people they represent,” claimed the 64-year-old, a former prime minister of Belgium, in a Guardian opinion piece.
“As with the referendum, which many European leaders saw as a Tory cat fight that got out of control, I have little doubt many on the continent see this election as again motivated by the internal machinations of the Tory party,” he added. He claimed that “a sprinkling of additional Conservative MPs on the backbenches” would do little to increase the chances of the United Kingdom and the European Union achieving a deal.
“For those sitting around the table in Brussels, this is an irrelevance,” he declared.
Verhofstadt described the EU has having a worse relationship than it has with any other non-member on the continent, excepting Russia and Belarus, after Brexit. The MEP predicted the reimposition of customs controls, tariffs on goods as well as services, and Britons having “no more of a right to holiday, travel and study in EU countries than tourists from Moscow or students from Mumbai”.
He even suggested that co-operation on international security and terrorism would be downgraded without “European court of justice oversight of the UK”.
“I hope this election will lead to an honest debate about the bitter realities of Brexit. Perhaps then the fog of surrealism that has engulfed UK ministers will clear and we can have a serious discussion about our future relationship,” he concluded.
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
Verhofstadt has previously stated that he is “convinced and 100 per cent sure” that the younger generation “will lead Britain again into the European family once again”.
His aggressive negotiating posture may be understood in the context of British Remain campaigners, led by former Prime Minister Tony Blair and millionaire financier Gina Miller, attempting to promote an alliance of politicians with an “open mind” to overturning the Brexit vote in the absence of “EEA minus” style deal with the EU. Such a deal would be one in which the UK would still be contained by the bloc’s Customs Union in addition to remaining subject to the Free Movement regime of the Single Market.
Blair believes voters should be given “the right to change their minds on Brexit”, and has thrown his weight behind Miller’s tactical voting campaign to return MPs of all parties who oppose a so-called “Hard Brexit” to Westminster.
Miller has denied she wishes to reverse Brexit, but her Campaign 2018 initiative has stated the “the possibility of [continued] membership” should be kept on the table.