Guy Verhofstadt accuses Boris Johnson of ‘foreigner bashing’ and claims the Tory leadership frontrunner has ‘learned NOTHING WHATSOEVER’ from the past two years of Brexit talks
- European Parliament’s chief Brexit co-ordinator ruled out changing Brexit deal
- Leading Europhile accused Mr Johnson of ‘duping’ voters to back Leave in 2016
- Mr Verhofstadt said Mr Johnson would soon have to ‘make good on his promises’
- Comments suggest Mr Johnson faces uphill task to persuade EU to renegotiate
Guy Verhofstadt has launched a stinging attack on Boris Johnson as he accused the Tory leadership front runner of ‘foreigner bashing’.
The European Parliament’s chief Brexit co-ordinator claimed Mr Johnson had continued behaviour from the 2016 EU referendum campaign as he sought to ‘dissemble, exaggerate and disinform the public about Brexit’.
Mr Verhofstadt also claimed that listening to Mr Johnson and his challenger Jeremy Hunt during the race to succeed Theresa May it was clear both men had ‘learned nothing whatsoever’ about Brussels during two years of Brexit talks.
The comments from the former prime minister of Belgium who campaigned for the Liberal Democrats in the UK during the European Parliament elections in May are likely to spark fury among Brexiteers.
They also demonstrate the level of opposition Mr Johnson is likely to face in Brussels should he become PM.
He has made renegotiating Mrs May’s deal his Brexit ‘Plan A’ but the EU has repeatedly said it is unwilling to do so.
Boris Johnson, pictured today on the bridge of a ferry to the Isle of Wight on his way to a Tory leadership hustings event, has made renegotiating Theresa May’s Brexit deal his ‘Plan A’
But Guy Verhofstadt, pictured earlier this month in Brussels, ruled out making changes to the existing divorce deal as he accused the former foreign secretary of ‘duping’ Leave voters
Mr Verhofstadt has become something of a bogey-man for Tory Eurosceptics over the last two years as the EU and UK have struggled to negotiate a deal.
Writing for the Project Syndicate website, he said Mr Johnson had ‘duped’ British voters to back Leave in 2016 and and ‘drummed up fears’ that staying in the EU would lead to a surge in immigration.
Mr Verhofstadt said Mr Johnson would ‘most likely soon find himself in a position where he must make good on his promises’ as he accused the former foreign secretary of continuing to ‘spread untruths’.
‘Chief among them is the myth that Britain can tear up the withdrawal agreement that May negotiated with the EU, withhold its financial commitments to the bloc, and simultaneously start negotiating free-trade deals,’ he said.
Labelling Mr Johnson a ‘populist’, Mr Verhofstadt said: ‘As is often the case with populists, reality does not square with Johnson’s ensorcelling combination of false promises, pseudo-patriotism, and foreigner bashing.
‘He and his fellow Brexiteers speak of a “Global Britain” that will trade freely with the rest of the world, even as they drag their country down a path strewn with uprooted trade ties and substantial new barriers to commerce.’
The leading Europhile said it was the EU that is the ‘real global trading power’ and not the UK as he also took aim at Mr Hunt and dismissed the chances of either Mr Johnson or the current Foreign Secretary securing a better Brexit deal from the EU.
‘To those of us watching from the outside, the debate between the candidates confirms that they have learned nothing whatsoever from the past two years of negotiations with the EU,’ he said.
The comments from Mr Verhofstadt appear to highlight the difficulty facing Mrs May’s successor and the opposition they are likely to face in Brussels to changing the current Brexit deal.
Mr Verhostadt’s comments illustrate the size of the Brexit challenge facing Mr Johnson, pictured today on the Isle of Wight, if he becomes the next prime minister
The EU reacted with incredulity earlier this week after Mr Johnson set out his Brexit ‘Plan B’ for a ‘standstill’ arrangement between the bloc and Britain if the two sides cannot agree to a permanent future relationship by October 31.
EU sources told the Sun Mr Johnson’s strategy was ‘not going to fly’ and described it as ‘bullsh**’.
‘This is an old UK idea, to secure the parts you like and forget the rest. But it’s a package,’ one said.
‘What is missing is finances and the backstop, so he would get all he wants. And you’d need our agreement for that. It’s nonsense.’
Another source added: ‘Boris can bullsh** all he likes. We’ve been here before.
‘If we didn’t make concessions for a Remainer like May why would we make them for a populist architect of Brexit?