The politicians pushing Brexit should be careful not follow in the footsteps of revolutionary leaders who “ended up on the guillotine”, the European Parliament’s Brexit chief has said.
At a press conference in Strasbourg Guy Verhofstadt compared Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg to Georges Danton and Maximilien Robespierre – leading figures in the French revolution who were ultimately executed by their former comrades.
He said it was “important to remind” the senior Conservatives that their historical counterparts had ended up losing their heads.
“I know that within the Tory party the hard Brexiteers are compared to the leaders of the French revolution. I think Gove is Brissot, and Boris Johnson is Danton, and Rees-Mogg is compared to Robespierre,” Mr Verhofstadt said.
“We should not forget that the efforts of these men were not appreciated by the common man they claimed to represent – because they all ended up on the guillotine. So that’s important to remind [them].”
His comments come a week after European Council president Donald Tusk caused a story in the UK by saying there was a "special place in hell" for Brexiteers who had advocated leaving the EU without a serious plan of how to do it.
Mr Verhofstadt was speaking ahead of a meeting with Stephen Barclay at the European Parliament – part of the UK Brexit Secretary’s tour of the EU to gauge support for changes to the withdrawal agreement.
He urged Brexiteers to compromise, adding: “I think it’s completely irresponsible of the hardliners to reject such cross-party cooperation because a no-deal scenario is a disaster for everybody and especially for the UK.
“I hope that such cross party cooperation will now lead to a new proposal or in any way further proposals by the British side.”
The Brexit coordinator said that the government and opposition were not as far apart as some believed, adding: “In my opinion it would surprise me that a country that has shown so much political creativity in its long history would not be able to overcome these differences and find a broad majority in the House of Commons.”
Tory MPs have said they will not support the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Theresa May as long as it includes the Irish backstop she negotiated with Brussels to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland.
Many Brexiteers are also opposed to a close economic relationship with the EU, preferring to be outside the customs union and not aligned with single market rules.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies