EU ‘not in the mood’ to renegotiate Brexit withdrawal agreement, says Guy Verhofstadt

Written by Martin Banks on 3 December 2018 in News
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Belgian MEP describes those who voted to leave the EU as “stupid”.

Photo credit: European Parliament AudioVisual


Verhofstadt’s comments come ahead of a week of debates in the UK’s House of Commons on the Brexit Withdrawal deal reached by the UK and EU.

A vote on the deal will be held in the UK parliament on 11 December.

Speaking ahead of the debate and vote, Verhofstadt, who chairs the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, described those who had voted to quit as “stupid”, adding that he had “no idea” how British MPs will vote.


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The Belgian deputy said in a TV interview that he also does not know what will happen if UK parliamentarians reject the deal.

He said, “It is a good deal, both for the UK and EU but I cannot predict what will happen if the vote is rejected.

“I can say though that we are not in the mood to start all over again. These negotiations lasted over two years. Some people may want to reopen the talks but that is not in the interest of the EU27.”

He favours an association agreement with the UK if UK deputies approves the deal, saying, “This will be good but the UK must accept the four principles of the EU before that can happen.”

He said the current impasse is a “mess” adding, “We have been busy with Brexit for over two years when the EU should be getting on with other important business like Trump’s protectionism, migration, climate change and trade.”

"We are not in the mood to start all over again. These negotiations lasted over two years. Some people may want to reopen the talks but that is not in the interest of the EU27” Guy Verhofstadt MEP

He said the “one positive” to come out of Brexit was the support for the EU from many EU citizens which, he said, is higher than ever.

Negotiations with the EU on the Brexit deal would have to be reopened if Article 50 was extended to hold a second Brexit referendum, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday.

She told the House of Commons Liaison Select Committee, “What is clear is that any extension to Article 50… reopens the negotiations, reopens the deal.

“And at that point the deal can go, frankly, in any direction,” adding that a second referendum would bring “a period of more uncertainty and more division.”

May also did not reject the possibility of a No Deal scenario if the UK Parliament votes down the deal, saying, “The timetable is such that actually some people would need to take some practical steps in relation to No Deal if the parliament were to vote down the deal on the 11th of December.”

EU leaders may be prepared to offer a three-month extension to Article 50 to avoid a No Deal Brexit. The extension would only be offered after Parliament had reached a conclusion on the form of Brexit it would support.

“Given the difficult circumstances of this negotiation, and given the extreme complexity of all the subjects related to the UK’s withdrawal, the deal that is on the table is the only and the best deal possible" EU Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier

May has reaffirmed her rejection of a Norway-style Brexit agreement as a way to gain Labour support for an exit deal. She said, “What you see in the political declaration is what would be a deal for the United Kingdom that is not Norway, it is not Canada, it is a more ambitious free trade agreement than Canada, and it ends free movement – which Norway doesn’t do.” She also claimed that Labour opposition to the backstop risks a No Deal scenario.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament debated the UK’s withdrawal from the EU with EU Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Commenting on the conclusions of 25 November summit, where heads of state or government backed the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the political declaration regarding future relations with the UK, members of the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group underlined the “gravity” of the moment.

The withdrawal agreement is the “only and best deal possible taking into account the UK government’s red lines and EU founding principles: integrity of the single market, indivisibility of the four freedoms and the autonomy of the EU’s decision-making” stressed Verhofstadt.

Barnier said, “It is now the time for ratification by the UK, the European Parliament and the Council. Leaving the EU cannot be business as usual, there is no added value to this negotiation”, but the agreement reached allows for an orderly withdrawal.

Barnier told members, “Given the difficult circumstances of this negotiation, and given the extreme complexity of all the subjects related to the UK’s withdrawal, the deal that is on the table – the draft Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration – this deal is the only and the best deal possible.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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