GUY VERHOFSTADT has branded British voters “stupid” as he claimed Britain’s decision to quit the European Union had boosted support for the bloc despite the growing threat of eurosceptic parties ahead of the European parliamentary elections.
Guy Verhofstadt said support for the European Union has increased since Brexit because EU citizens are not “as stupid as the Brits”. Mr Verhofstadt, who is running to replace European Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker when he retires in October, has been serving as Brexit coordinator for the European Parliament since 2016 and has been an outspoken opposer of Britain quitting the bloc. Speaking in Florence during a debate with his fellow Commission candidates, the Belgian politician said: “The problem today is the following – the European Union is under threat.
“Not the European project – since Brexit, public opinion in Europe is more pro-European Union than before Brexit. What that says is we are not as stupid as the Brits to go out.
“But at the same time, we have a problem with the union that doesn’t fulfill, in the eyes of the citizens, their dreams and the European dream and that will be the key issue in the coming five years.”
The former Belgian Prime Minister also blasted the European Council of EU27 leaders for agreeing to a further extension of the Brexit deadline until October 31, insisting the decision was not ” the most intelligent one they have taken.”
Theresa May last month sought a new delay of the withdrawal date until June 30 but later agreed to postpone Brexit for another six months and have Britain take part in the European parliamentary election of May 23. Mrs May has been engaged in cross-party talks with Jeremy Corbyn since the extension was announced.
Mr Verhofstadt continued: “I hope there is a deal because I personally think that the decision of the European Council to extend was not the most intelligent one they have taken.
“By doing that they have been importing the mess in British politics into the European elections. I hope for a miracle.
“I never had trust in miracles but this time, I really hope for a miracle. A miracle that in the coming days, next week, this deal is done between the two parties and that we can end this fight.”
The outburst followed the announcement that Mr Verhofstadt will be traveling to the UK next week to campaign for the Liberal Democrats ahead of the European Parliament ballot.
The Prime Minister’s embattled Cabinet is facing fresh splits today amid reports the British Government is considering giving up its customs union red line to get a Brexit deal through the Commons with the support of Labour.
Insiders have said ministers remain bitterly divided at the prospect of a customs union plan with several doubting such a deal could command a majority in Parliament or survive amendments from furious backbenchers.
One senior Cabinet member suggested as few as 90 Tory MPs would back any withdrawal deal involving a customs union and warned agreeing to the Labour proposal would spark a new round of ministerial resignations.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is understood to be among those most fiercely opposed to a customs union with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom also determined to block the idea.
But a source said Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Theresa May’s chief whip Julian Smith were still trying to talk Cabinet colleagues into accepting a deal with Labour may be the only path to delivering Brexit.
Mrs May said she had an “open mind” on a deal to be done with Labour.