Farage slams ‘insulting’ choice of Verhofstadt as Brexit boss
By James Crisp | EurActiv.com 8 sep. 2016 (updated: 8 sep. 2016)
Guy Verhofstadt was today (8 September) chosen as the European Parliament’s lead negotiator on Brexit, an appointment immediately slammed by Nigel Farage as “insulting”.
Verhoftstadt, the leader of the ALDE liberal group in the Parliament, has often clashed with the United Kingdom Independence Party chief, who is soon to step down.
Farage told EurActiv.com, “I can’t think of a man more insulting towards the British, our standing in the world, or even the concept of nation state democracy.
“I am convinced that with Verhofstadt in charge that EU exit will happen more quickly than I originally thought.”
He added, “They just could not have picked a human being more negative to what we are trying to do. In the European temple of federalism, he is the high priest. And people like me are not worthy.”
Verhoftstadt was appointed by the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents. MEPs will need to approve the eventual agreement on the deal to take Britain out of the EU.
Before that can happen, article 50 of the EU Treaty must be invoked. Verhofstadt has urged Britain to trigger the clause as soon as possible but the UK has said it is unlikely to do so before next year.
Verhofstadt has lashed out at Farage in the past, branding him the biggest waste of EU money ever during one debate.
He also described the Brexit referendum as “a glorified cockfight” between Farage and now Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
Former Belgian Prime Minister Verhofstadt, who wants a United States of Europe, was famously blocked from being European Commission President by the UK.
He was recently called a “wanker” during a European Parliament session by Syed Kamall, the Brexit-supporting head of the Tory-led European Conservatives and Reformists Group.
Kamall today said, “If the Parliament wishes to appoint a Brexit negotiator then it must be a decision made by a majority of all 751 MEPs, and the person and persons to fulfil the role must be voted on by the full Parliament.
“It is not right that the President and a couple of men sitting in a back room can decide everything and foist it on the democratically elected representatives.
“If the parliament thinks that Guy Verhofstadt is the right person to represent it in the negotiations then that’s fair enough, but these backroom stitch-ups are disrespectful of the 747 other MEPs and their voters.”
Verhofstadt’s appointment, alongside the Commission’s choice of Michel Barnier as its Brexit point man, shows that two of the EU institutions are taking a tough stance towards the Brits.
Barnier was infamously described as the “Scourge of the City of London” by the British media when he was Internal Market Commissioner.
sexta-feira, 9 de setembro de 2016
Two Belgians and a Frenchman walk into Brexit…/ Farage slams ‘insulting’ choice of Verhofstadt as Brexit boss
Two Belgians and a Frenchman walk into Brexit…
European Parliament chooses Belgium’s former prime minister as its envoy in UK exit talks.
By QUENTIN ARIÈS and PAUL DALLISON 9/8/16, 7:43 PM CET
European Parliament leaders on Thursday chose outspoken Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt to be the assembly’s chief negotiator on Brexit, a move that seemed designed by Brussels to provoke the Brits (again) before the talks even get underway.
A three-time Belgian prime minister who now leads the centrist Liberal bloc in the European Parliament, Verhofstadt is known for his excitable speaking style and media savvy. Throughout the Brexit debate he has often been harshly critical of the U.K. government, for example by declaring after the U.K.’s vote to leave the union that “the British must not hold the EU to ransom” by delaying the official start of divorce proceedings.
Verhofstadt also has spoken out frequently on issues that are sure to be contentious during the negotiations, insisting in July that Britain should not be allowed to restrict immigration and retain access to the other aspects of the single market.
“The European Parliament will never agree to a deal that de facto ends the free movement of people for a decade, while giving away an extra rebate in exchange for all the advantages of the internal market,” he said. “What would stop other countries from asking the same exceptional status?”
Although it has no formal role in the exit negotiations themselves, the Parliament will have to approve the agreement on the conditions for the U.K.’s departure from the EU. By selecting the combative Verhofstadt, the Parliament is helping stack the deck against London in the coming negotiations, a little over a month after the Commission chose Michel Barnier, a former European commissioner and veteran of tussles with the City of London — and, worse, a Frenchman — as its Brexit point man.
Barnier’s appointment was itself a response from the Commission to a move by another EU institution, the Council of Ministers, which on the day after the U.K. referendum named Belgian diplomat Didier Seeuws as its lead Brexit negotiator.
Reaction to Verhofstadt’s appointment was swift, especially from British MEPs who saw it as a provocation.
“Guy Verhofstadt hates everything we stand for, which should mean a much shorter renegotiation” — Nigel Farage
“Guy Verhofstadt hates everything we stand for, which should mean a much shorter renegotiation,” said Brexit architect and United Kingdom Independence Party MEP Nigel Farage, a frequent sparring partner with the Belgian in parliamentary debates. “Mr. Verhofstadt is a fanatical supporter of EU federalism even by the standards of the European Parliament. This appointment will no doubt speed up the U.K.’s exit from the European Union.”
Syed Kamall, the British Tory MEP who heads the European Conservatives and Reformists group, said the appointment was “a stitch-up.”
“It is not right that the president and a couple of men sitting in a back room can decide everything and foist it on the democratically elected representatives,” Kamall said. “If the Parliament thinks that Guy Verhofstadt is the right person to represent it in the negotiations then that’s fair enough, but these backroom stitch-ups are disrespectful of the 747 other MEPs and their voters.”
That was nothing compared to the comments from the right-leaning British media that greeted Barnier’s appointment in July.
The Sun’s political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, tweeted “hard to think of a more anti-British figure, declaration of war.” That sentiment was echoed by Tom Shipman of the Sunday Times, who tweeted “appointing Michel Barnier, one of the least popular ex-commissioners in London, as point man for Brexit is an act of war by Juncker.”
The Daily Express leaned on the caps-lock button as it wrote about the “Most DANGEROUS man in EU” and bemoaned that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had hired a “French FEDERALIST to negotiate on Brexit.”
But Vincenzo Scarpetta, of the think-tank Open Europe, wrote in a blog post that Verhofstadt’s role would be less critical than the one given to Barnier.
“On a personal level Verhofstadt could be a pretty tough nut to crack,” Scarpetta wrote. “A diehard European federalist, he generally comes across as less pragmatic than Barnier. I would expect Verhofstadt to be particularly intransigent when it comes to splitting the EU’s so-called ‘four freedoms’ — that is the free movement of goods, services, capital and people.”
What Verhostadt’s role will be is not yet clear. The Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee will take the lead for the assembly on Brexit and most likely will set up a special taskforce on the talks, which Verhofstadt would chair.
During David Cameron’s renegotiation deal with the EU — which he hoped would be enough to convince Brits to vote in favor of staying in the bloc — Verhostadt was one of a trio of veteran MEPs, alongside Germany’s Elmar Brok and Italy’s Roberto Gualtieri, named to represent the Parliament.
Parliamentary sources said Verhofstadt’s appointment shows the assembly is trying to exert greater influence over the negotiations.
“This appointment was made out of the blue, we got the news after the meeting by the secretariat-general [of the European Parliament],” said a source.
Choosing such a big name is also a way of joining the inter-institutional battle over Brexit. When the Council chose Seeuws as its lead Brexit negotiator, it caught everyone — especially the Commission — by surprise. The reaction from across the street in the Commission was to pick Barnier, even though he so far has nothing to do as official Brexit talks haven’t started.
As one diplomat put it over the summer, “Nobody in either the Council or in the Commission knows how we will work on Brexit.”
Seeuws’s boss, European Council President Donald Tusk, told British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday that talks on the U.K.’s exit from the European Union should start as soon as possible — which has been the EU line since the day after the vote.
By appointing Barnier, who will start work in October, Juncker (or more likely his powerful chief of staff Martin Selmayr) has chosen a man who has overseen much of the uneasy and at times tense dialogue between the eurozone and the U.K., during his years as commissioner in charge of the single market from 2010 to 2014.
During his second stint in Brussels — he was also a member of the Commission headed by Romano Prodi between 1999 and 2004 — Barnier’s main achievement may well have been to convince London financiers, in spite of their initial reservations, that a Frenchman was not necessarily out to get them with hostile, burdensome regulation in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
On Wednesday, speaking publicly for the first time since his appointment to the Brexit post, Barnier sounded even more reassuring, saying it would be important to keep a good relationship between the EU and Britain.
“I think we are in it with the U.K. for the long term in terms of the stability of this continent,” he said.
There’s another factor that may be at play in the Verhofstadt appointment, according to some in the Parliament: that giving him such a powerful role is a move by Martin Schulz, the president of the assembly, to stay for a third-term after his mandate ends in January.
“They are helping each other,” said a center-left parliamentary source. “Verhofstadt just secured public and media attention for at least the next three years.”