Guy Verhofstadt says ‘we are in injury time in negotiations’
As the trade talks reach their final stage, the former chair of the Brexit Steering Group (BSG) said he is “optimistic” there will be an agreement between the EU and the UK as he pledged not to weigh into the last leg of the talks. Addressing MEPs in the European Parliament at the end of November, the Belgian politician said he would not intervene on matters between the and the UK but moved on to say he was “optimistic” about a Brexit deal being reached by the end of the year. In a bizarre football analogy, Mr Verhofstadt said: “First of all, I don’t want to intervene on .
“I think we are in injury time, like we say in football, in these negotiations.
“But I’m still optimistic because I think that this is not like football.
“Footballers are tired in injury time.
“Politicians are not. They are at their best in injury time.
“And I hope I’m still optimistic because it’s in the interest of both to have this agreement.”
The Belgian politician’s claims are in stark contrast to how he behaved during the negotiations on the withdrawal agreement.
often tried to delay the process.
For example, in December last year, he said the deal struck between the UK and could have been vetoed by European Parliament if the issue of citizens’ rights was not fully resolved before Brexit Day.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Italian MEP Marco Campomenosi explained why Mr Verhofstadt has toned down his attitude towards Brexit.
He said: “t was basically a self-proclaimed Brexit Parliament coordinator. A policeman.
“He didn’t have a real position.
“The League Party has always defended the choice of British citizens as opposed to those who wanted to ignore the result of the referendum.
“It is clear we have to protect our businesses and people are realising that.
“This is why people like Verhofstadt are slowly disappearing right now – he just wanted to teach Britain a lesson.”
Mr Campomenosi’s suggestion that the Belgian politician did not have an official role in the Brexit talks is reinforced by the 2019 book “Blind Man’s Brexit”.
Documentary maker Lode Desmet and broadcaster Edward Stourton shadowed Mr Verhofstadt for almost two years, to make a documentary and book on the process leading up to the UK’s first scheduled departure from the bloc on March 29, 2019.
The unique access provided an unfiltered sight into the thoughts and worries of the EU negotiating team and revealed how Brussels really operated.
According to Mr Desmet and Mr Stourton, Article 50 did not exactly say that the European Parliament had to be involved in the Brexit talks.
Citing Article 50, they wrote: “The agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with article 218(3) of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.”
The authors added: “Those last eight words – after obtaining the consent of the – are all that Article 50 has to say on the subject, that the deal at the end of the negotiations has to be approved by the Parliament.
“Verhofstadt exploited the vagueness to his advantage, arguing that if Parliament was to approve the deal in the end, it was only logical that it should, from the start, be able to say what it expected from the negotiations.
“He had to fight hard to be heard.
“His intervention on the subject from the floor of the European Parliament in December 2016 was provocative even by his own standards.”
Mr Verhofstadt is quoted as saying to the : “What they are proposing is, ‘Oh simply we go forward with the Brexit negotiations, but without Parliament’.
“We can invite Sherpas [EU jargon for civil servants who do the groundwork for negotiations], maybe, but that’s all.
“You are not aware that we have to approve the agreement, at the end.
“You are aware of it. OK, that’s al coordinator in Mr Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal ALDE fraction, and set up the steering group to follow the negotiations on the withdrawal.
Brexit: Guy Verhofstadt says UK could make ‘huge mess’
Not a single Brexit sympathiser from any member state sat on the board of the cross-party committee of MEPs and, apparently, it was not a coincidence.
A spokeswoman for the told Express.co.uk, that the membership of the BSG reflected “the make-up of the political support of the April 2017 resolution with the UK, in which the Parliament voted on its so-called red lines”.
Because the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), which is now Identity and Democracy (ID) under the leadership of Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini, and Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) did not vote for the resolution proposed by the other political groups, they were blocked from participating in the BSG.
The spokeswoman said: “ECR, ENF (now ID) and EFDD did not support the resolution and thus their groups do not attend the Brexit Steering Group (BSG).
“Numerous resolutions (of different political coalitions) on Brexit were tabled that April and the one which won the majority of the house formed the basis of the European Parliament policy on Brexit.
“The BSG is composed of the members representing the groups which drafted and supported the resolution.
“Guy Verhofstadt was appointed the chairman and the other members were chosen by the group themselves and according to their own internal processes.”