Guy Verhofstadt’s strategic plan to fast-track Britain’s re-entry into EU exposed

Guy Verhofstadt’s strategic plan to fast-track Britain’s re-entry into EU exposed

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning crunch talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen this month in an effort to break the deadlock of the post-Brexit trade negotiations. British and EU negotiators finished their final round of trade talks on Friday, and, just as expected, both sides claimed “no significant progress” had been made in the last five days. Instead, hopes are now being invested in a “high level” political meeting this month to thrash out a way forward.

UK officials said they hoped Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen would inject “political momentum” into talks that have floundered on rows over fishing rights and EU demands for common standards on state aid, workers’ rights and the environment.

One British official told the Financial Times: “We need a broad agreement in place by the summer.

“We can’t still be having this conversation in September or October.”

Mr Johnson has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of an extension to the transition period, which is due to end on December 31.

The deadline for the UK to request an extension of up to two years is the end of June.

As the clock ticks down and pressure mounts, unearthed reports reveal how the EU was planning Britain’s re-entry into the bloc even before Brexit.

In 2017, Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian Prime Minister and arch European federalist, said that future British governments would have a way back into Europe if they decided to reverse course after Brexit, possibly even on a fast-track.

In an interview with Al Jazeera English, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said: “That is always possible.

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“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.”

Mr Verhofstadt’s remarks arguably reflected a stubborn strand of thought in Brussels and other EU capitals that Britain will bitterly regret its decision to quit the EU and will soon be seeking a way to rejoin the club.

In the interview, Mr Verhofstadt also claimed that Brussels was determined that Britain had to be made worse off by its decision to leave.

While stopping short of calling for a “punitive” deal, Mr Verhofstadt said the EU would have been guided by the principle that “you can never have outside the European Union a better status than as a member of the European Union”.

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Asked why he thought the British public had voted to leave an organisation which Mr Verhofstadt so passionately advocates as a force for good in Europe, he singled out the issue of free movement of people.

He said: “Mainly the migration.

“It’s very clear.”

In an exclusive interview with earlier this year, former Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan explained Mr Verhofstadt’s vision will never come true.

He said: “Although there are people who fondly dream about Britain rejoining, that is never going to happen.

“Anyone realistic understands that.

“Without the status quo advantage, there is no chance of Britain rejoining.”

Mr Hannan noted: “The question is not if Britain will rejoin the EU.

“The question is who is going to be the next to leave.

“Who is going to be the first to join us and the other 170 odd countries outside the EU, trading with our neighbours but governing ourselves.”

Published at Wed, 10 Jun 2020 10:23:00 +0000