Guy Verhofstadt gloats that the EU is MORE popular after Brexit

European Parliament Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt gloats that the EU is MORE popular after Britain voted Leave as it ‘opened our eyes’ to the need to reform

  • The senior MEP was grilled by MPs on his view s on the Brexit negotiations today 
  • He said that Britain’s exit has kick started discussions on the need to reform EU
  • He said it will take the whole of the two year transition to thrash out future deal 
  • He said UK ‘s Max Fac customs plans could lead to violence along Irish border
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The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator today said the EU project is more popular after Britain voted Leave.

Guy Verhoftstadt said the Brexit vote ‘opened our eyes’ to the need to reform and breathed new life into the Brussels project and called for a new federalist EU. 

He also rubbished David Davis’ claim a future deal with the EU can be thrashed out by March next year and said it would take the full two-year transition period to agree.

 He slammed the UK’s post Brexit customs proposals, warning the preferred scheme known as ‘Max Fac’ could see the return of bloody violence along the Irish border.

Speaking to MPs on the Brexit select committee today, he laughed as he was quizzed on whether he was ‘relieved’ that Britain had voted to quit the EU.

He said: ‘I still look at Brexit as failure of the EU. If an important, a key country, like the UK breaking away, it’s difficult to say ‘oh it’s a success, fantastic’.

‘I think it’s a failure and it has opened our eyes in the EU and accelerated the whole speaking of reform of the EU. That’s true.

‘What we have seen on the continent, if I may say so, after Brexit the European project regained popularity.’

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Guy Verhoftstadt (pictured in parliament today)  said the Brexit vote ‘opened our eyes’ to the need to reform and breathed new life into the Brussels project.

  • Britain must place ‘big bets’ on hi-tech warfare or face… Desperate May pleads for Labour Brexiteers to save her from…

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He added: ‘People thought “okay maybe there are a lot of things that don’t work well, but the breakaway is not the solution”. 

‘In that sense, since Brexit, there has been more debate on the reform of the European Union than we ever got in the years before.’ 

He said that after Brexit there were fears other European countries would also quit the EU – a view he said was trumpeted in brussels by Nigel Farage.

Guy Verhoftsadt warns the UK’s ‘Max Fac’ post Brexit proposal could reignite violence along Irish border

Guy Verhoftsadt today tore into the UK’s proposals for a post Brexit customs deal with the EU – warning they could reignite violence along the Irish border. 

The thorny issue of the Irish border is proving to be the toughest part of the Brexit deal to agree.

Commentators have warned that a return to border guards and post along the border could reignite The Troubles which brought decades of bloody war to the region.  

The UK’s preferred plan is to create a customs deal known as Max Fac’ which would see technology and preferred trader status deployed to keep trade flowing across the border without the needs for lots of checks.

But Mr Verhofstadt said he thinks the plan is ‘dangerous’ as any new checks along the border could spark bloodshed. 

He said: ‘If you use scans and cameras that is  a border – it is still a physical instrument. 

‘I don’t think it’s wise to do so, to put physical instruments on the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland. I think it is a dangerous step to do that. it could be the return of violence there.

‘I was always very sceptical of this idea  – OK technological evolution is so fast the all borders world wide will disappear tomorrow. I don’t  believe that.

‘We have still to work it out.’  

But he insisted that these fears have now dissolves and even once Eurosceptic parties in places like Italy are now turning ‘europhile’.

He added: ‘That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to reform….I don’t think the system in the European Union as it exists today. It has to be reformed – in my opinion the federal sense is the only way it can work.’ 

In comments that will infuriate the Brexit Secretary, he rubbished the UK’s claims that a future trade deal can be agreed quickly. 

He said: ‘It will be necessary to use the whole of the transition period to determine this political declaration.’ 

He later added: ‘Optimism is a moral duty – that is true. But I am not so optimistic you can do it in three months.’ 

He also rubbished one of the UK Government’s original plans for a post Brexit deal with the EU – a customs partnership.

Under that proposal – which the PM has all but abandoned now – the UK would collect customs duties on the EU’s behalf.

But in a blunt response, Mr Verhoftadt said the plan is impossible.

He said: ‘No, that’s not possible. No, no no, we cannot outsource our competencies and customs duties and customs arrangements. we have said that months and months ago.

‘The idea that the UK can take over our competence on the customs border – that is not possible.’ 

He also said he is ‘sceptical’ about the government’s other proposal – known as maximum facilitation or Max Fac – to use technology and trusted trader status to allow the free flow of goods over the border.

He said: ‘If you use scans and cameras that is  a border – it is still a physical instrument. 

‘I don’t think it’s wise to do so, to put physical instruments on the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

‘I think it is a dangerous step to do that. It could be the return of violence there.

‘I was always very sceptical of this idea  – OK technological evolution is so fast the all borders world wide will disappear tomorrow. I don’t  believe that.

‘We have still to work it out.’ 

He said that one of the EU’s biggest concerns is how to avoid a hard Irish  border.

Desperate May pleads for Labour Brexiteers to save her from humiliating defeat


Theresa May (pictured with aides in Westminster yesterday) is facing a nail-biting vote on the government’s flagship Brexit Bill later

Theresa May is pleading for Labour Brexiteers to save her from humiliating defeat on the EU Withdrawal Bill today.

The Prime Minister faces a bitter showdown with Tory rebels in the House of Commons this afternoon over demands for Parliament to get control of negotiations with Brussels.

The PM’s wafer thin working majority of just 13 means she faces disaster if just a handful of her MPs revolt on an amendment calling for a ‘meaningful vote’ before the UK crashes out of the bloc without a deal.

There are claims that 10 are still planning to switch sides. However, it is thought up to six Labour MPs could defy Jeremy Corbyn to back the government making the outcome nailbitingly close. 

Conservative whips have also been turning the screws on wavering MPs in a bid to ‘peel off’ opposition, with rebels complaining that they are deploying ‘dark arts’ of persuasion.

Rebel ringleader Dominic Grieve has admitted his blueprint could be used to delay Brexit, but described it as ‘a price worth paying’ to prevent a messy departure. 

Mrs May held private talks with Conservative Remainers in No 10 last night. But insiders said this afternoon’s vote is still on a knife-edge’. 

After Britain quits the EU the Irish border will be its only land border between the UK and the bloc. 

The thorny issue of working out how to keep the border soft and safeguard the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process threatens torpedo the talks.

Mrs May has been desperately trying to come up with a plan which keeps the border soft without forcing the UK to stay in the key parts of the EU.

And he repeated Michel Barnier’s comments saying that the UK will be kicked out of the European Arrest Warrant when it quits the EU.    

Mr Verhoftsadt also tore into the details of the UK’s plans for ‘backstop’ if no deal is reached in time between the UK and the EU. 

This plan B has been drawn up to avoid a hard Irish border and safeguard the peace process.

Under plans put forward by the PM, the whole of the UK to remain inside the customs union for a limited time after the transition deal.

But Mr Verhoftstadt rubbished the plan, saying a backstop cannot be time limited and that the UK would have to stick to single market rules as well for the plan to work. 

This would mean the UK would have to accept  the ‘four freedoms’ of the EU – including free movement.

He was accused by Tory MP Stephen Crabbe of  fueling calls for a Britain to walk away without a deal by showing a total lack of ‘compromise’.

But Mr Verhoftstadt tried to pin the blame on Britain – blaming the lack of progress in talks on Theresa May’s ‘red lines’ in talks. 

The MEP also risked wading into the row raging among MPs about whether they should be given a ‘meaningful vote ‘ – effectively a say on what the Government should so – if no deal is reached by late January next year.

Theresa May is facing a potentially devastating rebellion on the issue in the Commons later today. 

If she loses her authority as PM will be severely weakened and her Brexit plans dealt a major blow. 

Mr Verhoftsadt pointed out that the European Parliament would be given a vote on the deal.


Speaking to MPs on the Brexit select committee today (pictured), Guy Verhoftsadt laughed as he was quizzed on whether he was ‘relieved’ that Britain had voted to quit the EU

He said: ‘I know you have a discussion here abut a meaningful vote. We have more than a meaningful vote – we have to say yes or no.’

The MEP – an arch critic of Brexit – said he is optimistic a withdrawal agreement can be done by winter.

He said: ‘I am still confident that its possible to reach an agreement in October November….if the political will is there it is possible.’

But he said it must be thrashed out by the end of the year for EU member states to have enough time to sign it off by the Article 50 deadline next March.  

Mr Verhofstadt hinted that he wants to see an EU army – saying he backs a ‘European defence community as a pillar of Nato’.

What are the options for the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Brexit?


Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker agreed the outline of a divorce deal in December

Theresa May and the EU effectively fudged the Irish border issue in the Brexit divorce deal before Christmas.

But the commitments to leave the EU customs union, keep a soft border, and avoid divisions within the UK were always going to need reconciling at some stage. Currently 110million journeys take place across the border every year.

All sides in the negotiations insist they want to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, but their ideas for how the issues should be solved are very different.

If they fail to strike a deal it could mean a hard border on the island – which could potentially put the Good Friday Agreement at risk.

The agreement – struck in 1998 after years of tense negotiations and a series of failed ceasefires – brought to an end decades of the Troubles.

More than 3,500 people died in the ‘low level war’ that saw British Army checkpoints manning the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. 

Both London and Dublin fear reinstalling a hard border – whether by checkpoints or other means – would raise tensions and provoke a renewal of extremism or even violence if people and goods were not able to freely cross.

The DUP – which opposed the Good Friday Agreement – is determined to maintain Northern Ireland inside the UK at all costs, while also insisting it wants an open border. 

The UK blueprint:

The PM has made clear her favoured outcome for Brexit is a deep free trade deal with the EU.

The UK side has set out two options for how the border could look.

One would see a highly streamlined customs arrangement, using a combination of technology and goodwill to minimise the checks on trade.

There would be no entry or exit declarations for goods at the border, while ‘advanced’ IT and trusted trader schemes would remove the need for vehicles to be stopped.

Boris Johnson has suggested that a slightly ‘harder’ border might be acceptable, as long as it was invisible and did not inhibit flow of people and goods.

However, critics say that cameras to read number plates would constitute physical infrastructure and be unacceptable.

The second option has been described as a customs partnership, which would see the UK collect tariffs on behalf of the EU – along with its own tariffs for goods heading into the wider British market.

However, this option has been causing deep disquiet among Brexiteers who regard it as experimental. They fear it could become indistinguishable from actual membership of the customs union, and might collapse.

Brussels has dismissed both options as ‘Narnia’ – insisting no-one has shown how they can work with the UK outside an EU customs union.

The EU blueprint:

The divorce deal set out a ‘fallback’ option under which the UK would maintain ‘full alignment’ with enough rules of the customs union and single market to prevent a hard border and protect the Good Friday Agreement.

The inclusion of this clause, at the demand of Ireland, almost wrecked the deal until Mrs May added a commitment that there would also be full alignment between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. 

But the EU has now translated this option into a legal text – and hardened it further to make clear Northern Ireland would be fully within the EU customs union.

Mrs May says no Prime Minister could ever agree to such terms, as they would undermine the constitutional integrity of the UK.

A hard border:

Neither side wants a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. 

But they appear to be locked in a cyclical dispute, with each adamant the other’s solutions are impossible to accept.

If there is no deal and the UK and EU reverts to basic World Trade Organisation (WTO) relationship, theoretically there would need to be physical border posts with customs checks on vehicles and goods.

That could prove catastrophic for the Good Friday Agreement, with fears terrorists would resurface and the cycle of violence escalate.

Many Brexiteers have suggested Britain could simply refuse to erect a hard border – and dare the EU to put up their own fences. 

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