The EU 'is trying to ensure Brexit is a catastrophe for Britain'

·Freelance Writer

The EU’s chief negotiator has been accused of trying to “punish” Britain for voting for Brexit.

German MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel said Michel Barnier and the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt want to make sure the experience of withdrawal is such a “catastrophe” for the UK that no other country will follow it out of the EU.

Writing in The Times, Mr Henkel urged fellow MEPs not to listen to Mr Verhofstadt or Mr Barnier, who “want to make a mess out of this whole unhappy situation”.

Describing Mr Verhofstadt as “an ambitious politician who wants to achieve a United States of Europe”, Mr Henkel said the Belgian former prime minister’s attitude paved the way for the “disaster” of Brexit by allowing British Eurosceptics to whip up anti-EU sentiment.

Guy Verhofstadt and Michel Barnier are trying to punish the UK for Brexit, according to German MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel (Rex)
Guy Verhofstadt and Michel Barnier are trying to punish the UK for Brexit, according to German MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel (Rex)

He wrote: ”Mr Verhofstadt now wants to punish the British, full stop.

“He says he doesn’t want to, but I’m afraid he does. My impression is that Mr Barnier wants to do the same.

“The reason is simple. They would seek to make sure that Brexit is such a catastrophe that no country dares to take the step of leaving the EU again.

MORE: Brexit Secretary David Davis is ‘as thick as mince’
MORE: Brexit’s effect on UK ‘will be profound and unpredictable’, lawmakers say

“This is a terrible situation for us all.”

Mr Henkel’s comments come after divisions emerged over the UK’s Brexit divorce bill, which is rumoured to be around £66 billion.

It is understood that Britain will not agree a final figure for the so-called Brexit divorce bill until the 11th hour of its withdrawal process from the European Union.

David Davis and the Brexit team are attempting to push back against a huge EU divorce bill (Rex)
David Davis and the Brexit team are attempting to push back against a huge EU divorce bill (Rex)

There was frustration on both sides, with the EU irritated that the UK has not set out a clear position on what it believes are its financial obligations that will continue for a limited time after leaving the bloc.

Mr Henkel argued that there must be “give and take on both sides” but urged the UK to accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over civil nuclear issues to be able to remain in Euratom.

He went on: “My position is that the EU must accommodate the British. It will require give and take on both sides.

“For you, it will mean paying in and abiding by the rules, as Britain does now, and accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice when it comes to overseeing Euratom.”

Mr Henkel added: “Is it too much to hope that leaders of stature in the UK might say to people that, when it comes to Euratom, they got it wrong?

“And who knows, as we all face the disaster of Brexit, perhaps when it comes to EU membership itself, tell the British people, ‘We’ve all made a colossal mistake’?”

Top pic: Rex