Put Queen and country before party politics, says Verhofstadt
European politicians have called for the UK to put “Queen and country” before party politics following the defeat of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, urged the UK government to “make up your minds” as he appealed for clarity over the next steps.
On Tuesday the House of Commons rejected the EU Withdrawal Agreement by an overwhelming majority – 391 voted against the deal compared to 242 in favour.
Mr Verhofstadt told MEPs in the European Parliament in Strasbourg: “That is what we need and so I am against every extension, whether an extension of one day, one week, even 24 hours, if it’s not based on a clear opinion of the House of Commons for something. That we know what they want.”
This view was shared by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, who said it was the responsibility of the UK to provide a “clear answer”.
Mr Verhofstadt added: “Please make up your minds in London, because this uncertainty cannot continue. Not for us, not for Britain and certainly not for our citizens.”
He urged MPs in Britain to find a cross-party majority for a deal, adding: “Queen and country needs to come first.”
Melania-Gabriela Ciot, speaking for the European Council, said it would expect a “credible justification” for any extension requested by the UK and for its duration.
Nigel Farage said the “only neat solution” was to leave the EU on March 29, calling for any extension request from Britain to be vetoed.
He told MEPs: “We have had enough, we have seen the snarling anger towards our country of Mr Verhofstadt, the bureaucratic intransigence of Mr Barnier, the constant stream of insults that come from Mr Tusk, and we are of one mind: we don’t want to be governed by you, we want to govern ourselves.”
It comes as German MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel called for European politicians to “stop bashing London”.
He said the European Commission now had a “historic chance” to help Remain voters in the UK secure a second referendum, and change the minds of Brexiteers.
Applause broke out but a heckler shouted out “rubbish”.
Several responses to Tuesday’s vote have suggested a no-deal Brexit is now more likely and preparations for that scenario would be “intensified”.
Mr Barnier said the risk had “never been higher”, while Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said he would “intensify” his country’s no-deal preparations.
He wrote on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by the outcome of the #Brexit vote this evening.
“Despite clear EU assurances on the backstop, we now face a chaotic #NoDeal #Brexit scenario. And time is almost up. We will intensify our #NoDeal preparation.”
Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte said a no-deal Brexit was now more likely and a “solution must come from London”.
Mr Verhofstadt, tweeting on Tuesday evening, said the UK has “spiralled out of control”.
Sharing an image on Twitter of a man and woman kissing with their faces painted separately in Union Flag and EU flag colours, he wrote: “Brexit was about taking back control, instead the UK spiralled out of control.
“Only cross-party cooperation putting Country first, can end this mess. If this happens we will fully engage.”