Brexiteers 'are the real traitors', EU's Guy Verhofstadt says

European Parliament's Brexit coordinator ups rhetoric against Boris Johnson

Jon Stone
Wednesday 09 October 2019 17:24 BST
Guy Verhofstadt brands Brexiteers 'traitors'

The European Parliament's Brexit chief has branded Brexiteers "the real traitors", in a significant escalation of rhetoric from Brussels.

Speaking in a debate in the EU's legislature Guy Verhofstadt accused Boris Johnson of blaming everyone but himself for the situation the UK found itself in.

"The real reason why this is happening is very simply: it's a blame game against everybody. A blame game against the European Union, against Ireland, against Mrs Merkel, against the British judicial system, against Labour, against the Lib Dems, even against Mrs May," he said.

"The only one who is not to be blamed is Mr Johnson himself, apparently. But all the rest are the source of our problems. That is what is happening today. All those who are not playing his game are 'traitors' or a 'collaborator', or 'surrenderers'.

"Well in my opinion, dear colleagues the real traitor is he or she who risks bringing disaster upon his country, its economy, and its citizens, by pushing Britain out of the European Union. That is in my opinion, a traitor."

Mr Verhofstadt's incendiary remarks come after Boris Johnson and other Brexiteers were criticised for adopting hardline rhetoric themselves, branding a bill to prevent no-deal the "Surrender Act" and calling for "Britain first" policies.

In the same debate Brexit Party MEP Martin Daubney hit back at Mr Verhofstadt's speech, telling him: "You don't respect democracy ... you've lost, my friend, goodbye."

Mr Verhofstadt also criticised Leave-leaning Labour MPs who had said they would vote for Mr Johnson's proposal. He noted that the plan removed protections for environmental, social and labour standard protections that Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement included.

"That should be contrary to all the things Labour has defended in the past," he said.

Speaking in the same debate Mr Verhofstadt dismissed Boris Johnson's Brexit proposals, telling MEPs: "I will be less diplomatic than Michel Barnier. I think the proposal that Boris Johnson put forward exactly one week ago was not serious at all, dear colleagues.

"Not serious at all, because it was in fact – I call it a virtual proposal - not a real proposal. It gives a veto to the DUP, it puts customs facilities not on the border but in all the other parts of the islands of Ireland."

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