Michel Barnier faced a wave of anger today after suggesting Britain ran away from the fight against ISIS by voting for Brexit.
The EU’s chief negotiator said the UK had ignored pleas from European allies to combat terrorism and chose to be ‘on its own again’ in the referendum last June.
In comments that risk fueling tensions at a critical point in talks, Mr Barnier jibed that the Leave vote had followed ‘a series of attacks on European soil’ when the need for ‘solidarity’ was most acute.
At a security conference in Berlin today, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the UK had ignored pleas from European allies to combat terrorism and chose to be ‘on its own again’
The extraordinary intervention, in a speech at a security conference in Berlin, drew a furious response from MPs.
Tory backbencher Peter Bone said it was ‘outrageous’ for Mr Barnier to suggest the UK was not playing its part – insisting that NATO, not the EU was responsible for ensuring peace.
He pointed out that almost all EU nations were failing to meet the NATO target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence.
In his speech, Mr Barnier said: ‘More than 500 days ago, the United Kingdom took the sovereign decision to leave the European Union and bring to an end 44 years of common history.
‘To many of us this came as a great shock.
‘It was a decision taken against the backdrop of a strategic repositioning by our American ally, which has gathered pace since the election of Donald Trump.
‘It was a decision that came after a series of attacks on European soil, committed by young people who grew up in Europe, in our countries.
‘It was a decision that came six months after the French Minister of Defence issued a call for solidarity to all his European counterparts to join forces to fight the terrorism of Daesh.
‘Never had the need to be together, to protect ourselves together, to act together been so strong, so manifest. Yet rather than stay shoulder to shoulder with the Union, the British chose to be on their own again.’
Theresa May, pictured in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi today, has been pushing for a breakthrough in Brexit talks
Mr Barnier crowed that the EU had defied speculation it could fall apart in the wake of the Brexit vote.
‘Following the UK referendum, many people assured us that divisions would spread,’ he said.
‘Others predicted the victory of nationalist parties in the Netherlands, Austria and France. The weakening, or even dismantling, of the European project seemed an inevitability.
‘And yet, in an act of collective responsibility, Europeans suddenly woke up and responded by choosing unity. They affirmed their common project, even in one of the core areas of national sovereignty – security and defence.’
Mr Barnier said the UK would now ‘become a third country when it comes to defence and security issues’, and would lose ‘some levers for wielding influence’.
The remarks will be seen in the context of Mr Barnier’s rumoured ambitions to take over from Jean-Claude Juncker as EU commission president when his term ends.