Monday

8th Mar 2021

MEPs: Brexit shows danger of populism

  • Juncker: ”You fought for an exit, the British people voted for an exit, why are you still here?”

MEPs accused British populists of wrecking their own country in the first post-Brexit debate, but mellowed their demand on swift UK talks.

Speaking for the centre-right EPP group, the largest one in the European Parliament (EP), German politician Manfred Webber said in Brussels on Tuesday (28 June) that anti-EU populists have caused chaos in the UK.

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  • Farage said the EU was "in delusion" about its own decline (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

”The UK has harmed itself though this referendum. Everybody can see how the UK has slid into a crisis of government, it is damaging itself economically and may even fall apart. That is the result if you leave the EU,” he said.

He accused Nigel Farage, a British MEP who spearheaded the Leave campaign, of lying to voters.

"If you have any decency, you should apologise to the British people. Shame on you,” he said.

The centre-left S&D group, the second largest in the EP, said populist parties such as Farage’s Ukip had a destructive agenda.

“Those who turned the UK into a battlefield of ruins now want to destroy the EU institutions," the group's leader, Italian politician Gianni Pittella, said.

The European Commission chief, Jean-Claude Juncker, set the tone of the event in an early clash with Ukip.

”You fought for an exit, the British people voted for an exit, why are you still here?”, he asked the party’s MEPs.

The leader of the Liberal Alde group, Belgian politician Guy Verhofstadt said British populists had enflamed divisions in British society by use of xenophobic propaganda reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

"The lies on migration, that Turkey will join the union, the climate of fear that has been created is the most shocking thing of what happened in Britain", Verhofstadt said. He added that Brexit had one advantage.

"We are finally going to get rid of the biggest waste in the EU budget, which we have paid for 17 years. The salary of Nigel Farage...", the liberal said.

Farage hit back by accusing federalist politicians of lies.

“The main reason the UK voted out was that you have by stealth, by deception, without ever telling the truth to the people of Europe, continued to impose on them a political union,” he said.

He said that "little people" had "rejected ... big politics and said, actually we want our country back".

He also urged the EU to adopt a "grown-up and sensible" free-trade deal with the UK, promoting boos from other MEPs.

But EP president Martin Schulz called for calm, saying deputies should not imitate Ukip’s style.

Diane Dodds, a non-attached member representing the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, also voiced concern at the tone of the debate.

“I do accept that emotions are running high this morning but at times it has reinforced all the stereotypes that British people fear about Europe”, she said.

MEPs at the same meeting voted a non-binding resolution that parliament ”expects” the UK to begin exit talks by invoking article 50 of the EU treaty ”as soon as possible”.

Despite the strident rhetoric, the final text was softer than an alternative draft which had “asked” the UK to “immediately” invoke article 50.

But Juncker announced a ”presidential ban” on EU commissioners or other officials from holding informal talks on the UK terms of exit prior to the notification.

”No notification, no negotiations,” he said.

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Opinion

What a No Deal Brexit is going to look like

Research by the London School of Economics forecasts that a no-deal Brexit could be three times as bad as the pandemic for the UK economy, writes mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the president of the Committee of the Regions.

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