Ukip could be handed a decisive role in the outcome of Brexit unless the European Parliament is involved in negotiations, its outgoing President has warned.
Martin Schulz set out the consequences of moves to make the European Commission the lead negotiator – suggesting the votes of Nigel Farage’s MEPs could suddenly become crucial if opposition to a deal grew in the parliament.
He spoke out at a press conference in Brussels, after it was revealed that the Commission planned to shut MEPs out of the talks and key preparatory meetings.
Mr Schulz said all negotiated proposals must be ratified by MEPs, adding: “If you want to get a majority, then it’s meaningful to include the European Parliament. If, at the end, the European Parliament is split, let’s say 330 in favour and 330 against, and Ukip is deciding about Brexit, is that what you want?
“Therefore my advice is to include the European Parliament – the constructive elements of the parliament – in all the relevant steps.”
Mr Schulz also laid bare his emotions about Brexit, as he argued both Britain and the rest of the EU would be losers from the decision to leave the bloc.
Pointing out the EU was losing its second largest economy, one with a permanent seat on the UN security council, he said: “This is weakening the EU without any doubt”.
However, Mr Schulz said the UK’s economic strength was drawn from its single market membership, adding: “This is not a win-win situation for both sides.
“The origin was emotion on the one side and emotion on the other side, and I am emotional when I think about that.
“But emotions will not lead to the solutions we need. Let’s try to be rational and to make the best out of it.”
The comments came after awkward footage showed Theresa May standing isolated and alone at an EU summit in Brussels today, while other leaders greeted each other warmly.
Later, the other 27 leaders of EU countries will meet for an “informal” discussion without Ms May, to discuss their approach to the talks – but with, she said, her blessing.
As she arrived in Brussels, the Prime Minister pointedly refused to answer repeated questions about private warnings to the Government, from Britain’s EU ambassador Sir Ivan Rogers, that a post-Brexit trade deal could take a decade to finalise.
Sir Ivan also said that any deal could, even then, fail to be ratified by member states – but No 10 said Sir Ivan, was passing on the views of other EU nations.
“Ivan is there to report the views of others, he is doing the job of an ambassador,” a source said. “He was representing what others are saying to him.”
Downing Street insists it will be possible to complete both the “divorce deal” and a new trade agreement within the two-year time frame set out under the Article 50 exit clause.
No 10 also said the Prime Minister had been told to prepare for “complexities and difficulties” in the Brexit negotiation process.
Ms May met both Mr Schulz and the parliament’s lead Brexit negotiator, former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, for a 20 minute meeting.
A No 10 source said they both wanted a “constructive process”, but added: “We recognise there may be complexities and difficulties at times, because that is the nature of any negotiation.”
Ms May also met Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. The Lithuanian leader raised the status of her citizens living in the UK after Brexit. Ms May has said she wants to guarantee the rights of EU citizens – but is refusing to act unilaterally.
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