Brexit a 'stupid Tory cat-fight' that will be reversed, says EU Parliament's lead negotiator

Andy Wells

Brexit will eventually be reversed, the EU Parliament’s chief negotiator has claimed.

Guy Verhofstadt said Britain’s exit from the EU was little more than a “stupid Tory cat-fight” that got out of hand.

 

“There will be, one day or another, a young man or woman who will try again, who will lead Britain again into the European family once again,” the former Belgian prime minister said.

“A young generation will see Brexit for what it really is – a cat-fight in the Conservative Party that got out of hand, a loss of time, a waste of energy and a stupidity.”

On a day in which MEPs voted in favour of a tough line on Brexit negotiations following a debate in Strasbourg, Nigel Farage was also heckled after accusing the European Parliament of “behaving like the mafia”.

The former Ukip leader was told to retract his “unacceptable” remark by the Parliament’s president, Italian Antonio Tajani, who said that, in respect of national sensitivities, he would instead brand them “gangsters”.

Mr Farage continued his attack, telling MEPs that if the EU tried to impose tariffs on exports from the UK, Britons could boycott European goods.

He said: ”If you wish to have no deal, if you wish to force us to walk away from the table, it is not us that will be hurt.

“Do you know, we don’t have to buy German motor cars, we don’t have to drink French wine, we don’t have to eat Belgian chocolate. There are a lot of other people that will give that to us.

“A return to tariffs will risk the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people living in the European Union and yet what you are saying is you want to put the interests of the European Union above that of your citizens and your companies.

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“If you continue with that route, it won’t just be the United Kingdom that triggers Article 50. There will be many more to come.”

Mr Farage said last week’s delivery of Mrs May’s Article 50 letter was “a great historic day” applauded by millions around the world, and dismissed requests for a divorce payment as “a form of ransom demand”.

The row came as the Parliament heard a string of senior MEPs insist that Britain cannot enjoy “the same or better conditions” in its relations with the European Union as full member states after Brexit.

 

MEPs backed by a margin of 560-133 a resolution tabled by the leaders of the main party groupings, which set out red lines for the upcoming withdrawal negotiations under Article 50 of the EU treaties.

The parliament – which has an effective veto on the deal reached after two years of negotiations – insisted Britain must meet all its financial obligations and rejected any “cherry-picking” of privileged access to the single market for sectors of the UK economy such as financial services.

The resolution backed the commission’s “phased” approach to dealing with the terms of withdrawal before moving on to the question of trade, and warned that there can be no trade-off between security and the future economic relationship between the EU and UK

The debate came after Prime Minister Theresa May said curbs on freedom of movement would not come into force immediately after Britain has quit the European Union.

Speaking during a trip to Saudi Arabia, Mrs May said there would be an “implementation” phase once a deal had been struck, with business and governments needing a “period of time” to adjust to the new rules.

Top pic: PA

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