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Brexit news latest: Guy Verhofstadt blasts MPs for dithering over EU withdrawal

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 17/04/2019 Katy Clifton
Guy Verhofstadt wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Local News RSS EN-GB

European Parliament’s chief Brexit co-ordinator has blasted MPs for dithering over Brexit and expressed his fear that Britain’s withdrawal will "poison" the European elections.

Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Guy Verhofstadt said he fears that the delay to Brexit will “continue the uncertainty. I fear it will prolong the indecision.”

He told MEPs: “And I fear most of all that it will import the Brexit mess into the European Union. And moreover, that it will poison the upcoming European election.”

The Brexit co-ordinator also said that he fears the decision to extend the Article 50 deadline to October 31 will mean the “pressure to come to a cross-party agreement disappears.”

Guy Verhofstadt wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a crowd: European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt (AFP/Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt (AFP/Getty Images)

He said: “Both parties Conservatives and Labour will again run down the clock – the proof of this is that the first decision the Commons has taken after the decision was to go on holidays.”

In a speech on Tuesday, he addressed people in European Parliament who suggested that Britain may avoid leaving the EU.

He said: “I’m against Britain leaving the EU, but it’s not our decision.

“It was the decision of the British people. So what my fear is, is that instead of killing Brexit, the decision could risk killing Europe, putting our energy in negotiations with British leaders – like Mr Corbyn or Mr Johnson - who in their heart despise Europe.

“And it is at the moment when we need to put all our energy into the renewal of our EU.”

His comments came as European Council president Donald Tusk said he still believed that Brexit could be reversed after the UK’s departure was delayed till Halloween.

Mr Tusk told MEPs that the UK would continue to be represented in the European Parliament for "several months - maybe longer".

Donald Tusk wearing a suit and tie: President of the European Council, Donald Tusk (EPA) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited President of the European Council, Donald Tusk (EPA)

The prospect of the UK taking part in the May 23 elections, almost three years after voting to leave the European Union, has fuelled anger among Brexiteers.

Theresa May secured the extension to the Brexit process at a summit last week in order to prevent a no-deal split from the EU, but still hopes the UK can leave earlier than the Halloween deadline if she can get a Withdrawal Agreement through the Westminster Parliament.

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Cross-party talks with Labour aimed at securing a Commons majority for a deal are continuing but Jeremy Corbyn said "there's no agreement yet" and "the Government doesn't appear to be shifting the red lines".

Theresa May holding a sign: Theresa May secured the extension to the Brexit process last week (AP) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Theresa May secured the extension to the Brexit process last week (AP)

Speaking in Strasbourg, Mr Tusk said he disagreed with one of the bloc's premiers who had said the EU should abandon hope of the UK reversing its decision to leave.

"During the European Council one of the leaders warned us not to be dreamers, and that we shouldn't think that Brexit could be reversed," he said.

"I would like to say: at this rather difficult moment in our history, we need dreamers and dreams.

"We cannot give in to fatalism. At least I will not stop dreaming about a better and united Europe."

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs the EU has "nothing to gain" from the disruption a no-deal Brexit would bring to the UK.

Mr Juncker said: "We have adopted the necessary contingency measures and we are ready for a no-deal Brexit.

"But our union has nothing to gain from great disruption in the United Kingdom. The only ones who would benefit are those who resent multilateralism and seek to undermine the global legal order."

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