European Parliament’s lead Brexit negotiator warns European Union could 'disappear'

Guy Verhofstadt says that now is 'an existential moment for the European Union'

Josie Co
Business Editor
Wednesday 08 February 2017 09:12
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Guy Verhofstadt says European Union is in existential moment

The European Parliament’s lead Brexit negotiator has said that the European Union needs to reform or it risks disappearing completely.

Speaking to the BBC World Service on Wednesday, Guy Verhofstadt said that there are multiple sources of pressure on the bloc.

“If we look to the pressure on the European Union at the moment… [President Donald Trump] is bidding on the designation of the European Union and also Vladimir Putin who wants to divide the European Union,” he said.

“Then there’s also the threat of jihadism and then internally we have enormous pressure by nationalists, populists, the whole question of Brexit, so it’s an existential moment for the European Union,” he added.

He said that it is “now the time to reform, otherwise it could disappear.”

Mr Verhofstadt’s warning echoes a speech he made in London in January during which he said that the European trading bloc was facing a three-pronged attack from outside forces.

Two of the forces were Russian President Putin and radical Islamism; the third, he said, is Mr Trump, he said.

“I have just come back from the US and my view is that we have a third front that is undermining the EU ... and that is Donald Trump,” he said at the time.

Commenting on Brexit earlier last month, Mr Verhofstadt, who is the former prime minister of Belgium, said that Theresa May is creating an “illusion” after the prime minister outlined Britain's plan for leaving the EU at a landmark speech at Lancaster House.

He also said that it was “not very helpful” that there had been discussions about Britain becoming a tax haven after the split.

“I think it creates an illusion that you can go out of the single market and the customs union and you can cherry pick and still have a number of advantages,” he said at the time.

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