Verhofstadt: No special treatment for UK on Brexit

ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstadt has ruled out Britain receiving any special treatment regarding the terms for exit from the EU.

Guy Verhofstadt | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

30 Jan 2017

Verhofstadt, who is Parliament's Brexit negotiator, also said that the UK is welcome to apply to re-join the EU.

In an interview at the weekend, Verhofstadt said that EU would fast-track Britain's application if the country decides to re-apply for entry.

"That is always possible," he said. "They can always reintroduce a request for membership of the European Union. Certainly, we have enough experience to make it a little bit a faster process than what is normal."


The former Belgian Prime Minister also told Al Jazeera that "a Little Englander mindset" could be "a good explanation" for Britain's vote to leave the EU last June.

He was speaking days after UK Prime Minister Theresa May told British MPs she would deliver an agreement by Brexit, to avoid inflicting punishing World Trade Organisation tariffs on businesses. "That's what I'm committed to - and that's what this Government is going to deliver," she said.

But the Liberal MEP dismissed the prospects of the Brexit talks being completed in the proposed two-year timeframe. "That's technically impossible," he said.

Verhofstadt also sought to emphasise that the rest of the EU would not be looking to punish the UK in the negotiations. However, "you can never have outside the EU a better status than as member of the EU", he said.

Ukip's Nigel Farage said, "Verhofstadt hates everything we stand for, which should mean a much shorter renegotiation. Verhofstadt is a fanatical supporter of EU federalism even by the standards of the European Parliament."

As counterpart of Michel Barnier, negotiator for the European Commission, Verhofstadt will keep the Conference of Presidents (comprising the Parliament President and group leaders) informed of developments and will help prepare Parliament's position in the negotiations.

Parliament will need to approve a possible agreement on the conditions for the UK's departure from the EU. Once article 50 of the EU treaty has been triggered by the UK, Verhofstadt will also work closely with the chair of the constitutional affairs committee, Polish EPP member Danuta Hübner, and other committees to shape Parliament's negotiating position.

Verhofstadt also led negotiations on behalf of Parliament for the inter-institutional agreement on better law-making, adopted by Parliament last March.

He was also a member of the task force on future financing of the EU.


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