Guy Verhofstadt: Boris Johnson’s Brexit rhetoric is ‘language of Europe’s dark past’

Written by Martin Banks on 6 September 2019 in News
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Guy Verhofstadt has lambasted the rhetoric used by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other cabinet members during the unfolding Brexit drama, calling it “the language of Europe’s dark past.”

Boris Johnson during a visit to Darnford Farm near Aberdeen, Scotland  | Photo credit: Press Association


British finance minister Sajid Javid said on Thursday that legislation to delay Brexit, which is now set to clear Parliament, was a “surrender bill” and meant the country would have to hold a national election.

Johnson used the same controversial phrase during a heated debate on Brexit in the UK House of Commons earlier this week.

But Verhofstadt, who chairs the European Parliament’s influential Brexit Steering Group (BSG), comprising senior MEPs, criticised the use of such words, saying, “Opposing a no deal is not surrender.”


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Verhofstadt, former leader of the ALDE group (now RE) in Parliament, said, “This is the language of Europe's dark past. It implies Britain's European allies and neighbours are enemies.”

“I refuse to believe the majority of British people think this is the case,” added the Belgian Liberal MEP who was commenting after a meeting of the BSG this week.

Javid said, “When it gets Royal Assent it will be a surrender bill and that is why the Prime Minister has said that, especially once this bill is in place, that we need to move forward as a country, we need to deliver on Brexit, and that’s why unfortunately I think we are in the position where we need a general election,” Javid said in a television interview.

“This is the language of Europe's dark past. It implies Britain's European allies and neighbours are enemies” Guy Verhofstadt

Javid also said the proposed October 15 date for an election announced by Boris Johnson would probably be changed because a bill to hold an early election was blocked by Parliament on Wednesday.

On Friday, further reaction to the latest Brexit wranglings came from UK Socialist MEP Neena Gill, who told this website, “There is no question about it that the UK is facing one of the deepest political crises in recent history.”

“The threat from Boris Johnson to prorogue Parliament in order to clear the way for a no-deal Brexit was an outrage and I stand with my Labour colleagues in the UK to do what is necessary to prevent this situation from happening."

 "I think the British public is starting to see the true colours of this Prime Minister and know that he cannot be trusted to serve the interests of the country above his own. No deal will harm all regions of the UK, especially my region of the West Midlands, where thousands of jobs in manufacturing are reliant on frictionless trade with the EU.”

“We must get the legislation in place to take No Deal off the table once and for all."

Remain-supporting British MEPs have formed a new cross-party alliance and pledged to work together in the face of Brexit and Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament.

“I think the British public is starting to see the true colours of this Prime Minister and know that he cannot be trusted to serve the interests of the country above his own” Neena Gill MEP

It is thought that the Brussels Declaration could be a model for pro-EU opposition parties hoping to cooperate back in Westminster.

Among those who signed the Declaration is UK Socialist MEP Julie Ward who said, “Now is the time to put the country first and for Labour to continue work across progressive political parties to show that we are united, here in the European Parliament and in Westminster, and that no-deal is wholly unacceptable and undemocratic.”

“We refuse to risk millions of jobs, businesses, as well as key medical and food supplies across the UK by crashing out of the EU without a deal.”

She added, “While the Johnson-Cummings Government has shown it has no respect for democracy or our institutions, here in Brussels we are ensuring that we lead the way and assist domestic efforts to ensure that the UK Parliament has its say and that we do not crash off the edge without a deal with the EU.”

“Here in Brussels we are ensuring that we lead the way and assist domestic efforts to ensure that the UK Parliament has its say and that we do not crash off the edge without a deal with the EU” Julie Ward MEP

Next Thursday, Parliament’s Italian president David Sassoli and political groups’ leaders (the Conference of Presidents) will discuss in Parliament with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier the state of play in the Brexit process.

Meanwhile, UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was, on Friday, hosting a meeting with other opposition party leaders in the UK to discuss their approach to the timing of a general election.

All stages of the bill are due to be completed in the UK House of Lords by 6pm (CET) on Friday, at which point the bill can go back to the House of Commons before being presented for royal assent.

MPs get another chance on Monday to vote for Boris Johnson's call for a snap election, after rejecting it earlier this week.

It is the end of a tumultuous week for Mr Johnson, who has suffered a series of defeats over Brexit in Parliament, expelled 21 of his own MPs for rebelling and seen his younger brother resign from government.

“It is the end of a tumultuous week for Mr Johnson, who has suffered a series of defeats over Brexit in Parliament, expelled 21 of his own MPs for rebelling and seen his younger brother resign from government”

His decision to suspend Parliament next week ahead of a Queen's Speech on 14 October is also being challenged in the courts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In a speech on Thursday, Johnson reiterated his call for an election, which he wants to take place on 15 October - days before the UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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