Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has met with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for private talks, as the UK attempts to negotiate its exit from the EU.
Juncker greeted the Iraq War architect — now an ad hoc leader of the movement to reverse the 2016 vote to Leave the European Union — with a kiss branded “[the] kiss of death for nation-state democracy” by Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage, the Telegraph reports.
“Blair’s interference and desire to sell out our country never stops. The Remaniac-in-chief has no position or power anymore, only delusions,” he added.
The former Labour leader, once tipped as a future President of the European Council, has previously argued that it is “absolutely necessary that [Brexit] doesn’t happen, because I think every day is bringing us fresh evidence that it’s doing us damage”.
EU officials have insisted there is no “conspiracy” behind the meeting, however, and that Blair and Juncker are meeting because they’re “good friends”.
Blair's back, and "ready to get his hands dirty" to foil Brexit.https://t.co/GbWTvJlVp6
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 1, 2017
The meeting comes at a difficult point in Britain’s negotiations with the EU, with progress on its future relationship with the bloc apparently stalled over a dispute with respect to a so-called “divorce bill” which critics have branded a “ransom”.
“In July, the UK recognised that it has [financial] obligations beyond the Brexit date, but this week the UK explained that these obligations will be limited to their last payment to the EU budget before departure,” complained the bloc’s chief negotior, Michel Barnier.
“Yet we have joint obligations towards third countries. For example, we have guaranteed long-term loans to Ukraine together … After this week, it is clear that the UK does not feel legally obliged to honour these obligations after departure … How can we build trust and start discussing a future relationship?
Blair’s trip to Brussels was played down by Brexit secretary David Davis, who said he was “not going to comment on the movement of private citizens and what they do.”
Remain-supporting media outlets have tended to paint negotiation difficulties as negative for the United Kingdom exclusively — prompting Farage to declare that “They want Britain to fail” — but many EU leaders are beginning to complain that a ‘No Deal’ scenario will inflict significant damage on the bloc itself.
For example, the Hungarian foreign minister has argued that failing to secure a free trade agreement with Britain could lead to a “nightmare scenario” in which EU exporters are left at a competitive disadvantage once Britain begins striking new deals with countries such as Australia and the United States.
German MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel, whose Free Democrats party look set to join an Angela Merkel-led coalition government after elections in late 2017, has also underlined the importance of the British market to EU exporters, particularly in his own country.
“Germany should be the country saying, ‘For Christ’s sake, give them the best trade deal possible’,” he pleaded earlier this month, criticising EU officials he accused of wanting to “make a mess” of the Brexit negotiations for political reasons.