Guy Verhofstadt talks Brexit some more…

This speech was given by Guy Verhofstadt MEP was delivered on Wednesday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg:

The British Parliament may be shut down, we are clearly showing today the European Parliament is not.

Eurosceptics like bashing Europe by saying that the European union is undemocratic. And they repeated that today. Well, Juncker or Tusk can do a lot but at least they cannot close the doors of this House. So, if the Eurosceptics here want to look again for a ridiculous comparison with the Soviet Union (as they often do), from now on they can point their finger to Westminster instead of Strasbourg or Brussels.

My hope is that with the vote today, we will reiterate our unity on Brexit: Parliament, Commission, Council, the 27 Member States. Brexit is bad, no discussion about that, but it got at least one positive effect: besides our refound unity, it has dramatically changed the opinion of the public on the European project. The people are still critical towards the European Union and for good reasons. But they want to reform Europe, not to destroy Europe. That was the message of the people during the European elections. And that was also the message of the people in Britain. Pro-Europeans won most of the seats. Nearly 40 of the elected 73 British MEPs are Remainers.

For us, whatever the outcome is, the deal has to meet three conditions:

1. Safeguard the rights of our citizens, European and British alike. Today, that is not achieved. There are more and more stories coming out, of people being turned down for settled status when they have been living in the UK for more than a decade. And in European countries, the situation for British citizens is not better. We need a fundamental shift in the way the UK government applies that part of the Withdrawal Agreement. No bureaucratic application as is the case now, but an automatic registration. We all know Boris Johnson likes to compare himself with movie characters. Well, concerning citizens’ rights: instead of playing the angry Hulk, he should be more inspired by another character, the caring nanny, Mrs. Doubtfire.

2. Secondly, the Irish backstop, or let’s call it ‘safety net’. We need such a safety net. More than for economic reasons, we need it to be sure that violence doesn’t return on the island of Ireland. I find it completely irresponsible from the hardline Tories not to accept this, to risk again violence. And I say that not light-heartedly. I say this because as we speak today, not one legally feasible and practical alternative have been put forward by the UK.

Clearly, a kind of backstop limited to agricultural products is not enough. It only represents 30 percent of all goods and services. And a backstop that can be unilaterally ended by ‘Stormont’, is not a ‘safety net’ but a source of permanent uncertainty for coming negotiations, if not an instrument for blackmail.

(And those who criticize the European Union for a lack of flexibility, should point the finger to the UK government for a lack of responsibility.)

3. Finally, the future relationship. It’s good to repeat that this Parliament will never accept an agreement with the UK where the Brits can have all the advantage of free trade and zero tariffs, and not aligning with our ecological, health and social standards. We are not stupid. We will not kill our own companies, our own economy, our single market. We will never accept ‘Singapore by the North Sea’.

Let me conclude, colleagues. We all know Mr. Cameron wanted to use Brexit to solve a division in the Conservative party. His little adventure ended with huge divisions in British society. We will never let it happen that this Brexit divides Europe and the European project.

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14 Comments

  • William Fowler 23rd Sep '19 - 11:35am

    “We will never accept ‘Singapore by the North Sea’. ”

    I want to remain but it is up to the UK populace if it wants a lean and mean Brexit, a socialist “paradise” or carry on as now, not the EU.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Sep '19 - 2:51pm

    “We will never accept ‘Singapore by the North Sea’. ”

    William Fowler is quite right. I don’t want the UK to be modelled on Singapore any more that does GY. But that’s our choice to make through our democratic process, when, and if, we leave the EU.

    Singapore left the Malaysian Federation in 1965. Relations between Malaya and Singapore have rarely been cordial since! There have been military tensions, economic blockade and threats to Singapore’s water supply. It’s normal for a country leaving an empire (Guy Verhofstadt’s word. Not mine) to feel some resentment. I’d hope that the EU wouldn’t hold a grudge against us though – even though my expectation is otherwise.

    So what is the alternative to the EU accepting the future UK in whatever form it takes? Are they going to impose economic sanctions?

    Equally we need to accept the EU in whatever form it takes. If GV has his way we know what that will be. It will be a new “Empire”.

    https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/280574.The_United_States_of_Europe

  • Peter Martin 23rd Sep '19 - 3:06pm

    @ Martin

    “His point is that the European Parliament and EU states will never accept an agreement with the UK where the UK styles itself as ‘Singapore by the North Sea’.”

    First of all it’s quite unlikely the UK would “style itself” in this way.

    Secondly, and perhaps more to the point, is that this isn’t what LDV is reporting GV to have said. The lack of acceptance is towards the country itself. Not just any supposed agreement.

    Maybe you’d like to read it again?

  • Britain’s opposition Labour Party will vote to decide its Brexit strategy on Monday, with leader Jeremy Corbyn heading for a showdown with his members over whether the party should back staying in the European Union.

    The vote at its annual conference in the English seaside resort of Brighton is the latest attempt by the party to bridge its divides over Brexit, a row that has overshadowed party officials’ attempt to present Labour as a government in waiting.
    https://worldabcnews.com/british-labour-leader-faces-showdown-with-party-members-over-brexit/

  • The manner in which Juncker’s replacement and other Commissioners have been elected tells you everything you need to know about the shocking democratic deficit within the EU.

    Verhofstadt needs to realise that the UK wants a trade agreement that does not involve accepting full political and social dominance by the EU. Outside, in the free world, there is another way of doing things. He should get out more.

  • Britain’s none functioning Oppersition voted to remain wedded to the fence. To a rendition of O Jeremy Corbyn Mr and Mrs Corbyn-Fence left the conference for a long honeymoon expected to finish several months after the next general election. When a passing voter asked what exactly is your policy a Labour party spokesperson said “What ever you want it to be, just make it up as you go, that policy works for me”. A regular poster on LibDemvoice is quoted as saying ” What a leader, sat on his fence waiting to pounce, I’ll be voting for leadership like that, not like the none leadership of Jo who actually tells you what she will do and she hasn’t even got a fence, by the way my names ex…….”.

  • Denis Loretto 23rd Sep '19 - 8:16pm

    Those who seem to think that it is the mission of the EU to tell every country in the world what to do should simply read exactly what Verhofstadt is saying – “this Parliament will never accept an agreement with the UK where the Brits can have all the advantage of free trade and zero tariffs, and not aligning with our ecological, health and social standards.” In other words if the UK is going to make itself “Singapore by the North Sea” it cannot expect to have virtually the benefits of the single market for its massive European trade. Have we still not understood that we cannot have cake and eat it?

  • Arnold Kiel 23rd Sep '19 - 8:36pm

    It should be clear what Guy Verhofstadt meant: as a member of the single market, you cannot engage in predatory competition through tax-, social-, or environmental dumping. Singapore on the Tames means exactly that; it is, of course, a UK choice, but it determines EU market access. The EU does business with Singapore, but not in the way the UK should be interested in to e.g. keep its automotive industry. A balance between divergence and access must be found. The Johnson/Truss/Patel thinking on a Singapore-style economic model is very much aiming for non-EU financial services customers (aka the world’s dirty money). It will kill manufacturing and agriculture. Strange that northern Brexiters don’t get this.

    The Commission is voted on by the elected European Parliament as proposed by the Council (composed of ministers of democratically elected Governments), as stipulated by entirely democratic EU rules which were approved by all democratically elected European Governments. This ensures that the EU executive remains aligned with the consensus of democratically elected sovereign European nation-states. Where is the deficit?

  • Peter Martin 23rd Sep '19 - 8:50pm

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    “Strange that northern Brexiters don’t get this.”

    We do. But, you’re missing the point. We don’t want to be Singapore, just as we don’t want to be Germany or the USA. We’ll decide for ourselves and we don’t need any advice from Guy Verhofstadt. If we listen to him we become part of the “Empire”. I was tempted to write “Evil Empire” but I don’t really think that. I’d say it was more a “Misguided Empire.”

    The cultural differences in the Europe are too great for it ever to be a viable political project. You’ve just got to listen to how you guys and the Dutch carry on about the Greeks and the Italians to know that.

    Goodness knows whatever possessed you to want to share a currency!

  • Sean Hyland 23rd Sep '19 - 9:08pm

    I welcome Guy Verhofstadt recognised a degree of criticism of the EU in the elections and the need to undertake some measures of reform. I’m not clear yet if his preferred ideas of reform are in alignment with the reform the voters are seeking.

  • Bless Peter, you still don’t get it do you. You don’t get the fantasy Brexit you want, you get the Brexit you are given, so if it’s Singaphore on Thames, it’s Singaphore on Thames. You also don’t get to say “Tis not my Brexit”, you voted for an undefined Brexit and what ever you get is your responsibility, no amount of tin foil will deflect that.

  • William Fowler 24th Sep '19 - 8:04am

    Incidentally, Singapore has the kind of investment fund and ownership of social housing that would make Corbyn and Co go weak at the knees at the prospect of replicating in the UK… the Conservatives are more interested in replicating the tax system, notable in being very low and not taxing overseas income (if done right it would get business exporting like mad). To get that low tax rate, though, lots of things have to go.

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