EU chief Guy Verhofstadt blasts MPs for 'going on holidays' as Brexit clock ticks down
EU chief Guy Verhofstadt today blasted MPs for taking a week of holiday immediately after winning a Brexit delay.
The Brexit co-ordinator in the European Parliament said the move was proof both the Conservatives and Labour wanted to “run down the clock” to the next deadline of 31 October.
EU leaders granted Theresa May the six-month delay on Wednesday to prevent Britain crashing out with no deal on 12 April.
They were forced to agree the extension after MPs refused for a third time to back the Brexit deal the PM struck with Brussels, and after cross-party talks between the Government and Labour failed to break the deadlock.
Once the delay was agreed, Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said MPs could go off for their second week of Easter recess. Theresa May herself has taken a walking holiday in Wales.
In a furious address to the European Parliament this morning, Mr Verhofstadt warned European Council president Donald Tusk that the 6-month extension put EU unity at risk.
“Everybody knows that 31 October is in fact too near for a substantial rethink of Brexit and at the same time too far away to prompt any action,” he fumed.
“My fear is that with this decision, the pressure to come to a cross-party agreement… disappears…
“And that both parties, Conservatives and Labour, will again - well they did already for months - run down the clock.
“And the proof of this is that the first decision the House of Commons has taken after your decision was to go on holidays.”
He also warned that the delay would “import the Brexit mess into the EU and moreover that it will poison the upcoming European election”.
Mr Verhofstadt said ex-Ukip leader Nigel Farage could be the only “saviour”, as his new Brexit Party will pile pressure on the main party bosses to come to an agreement that can win a Commons majority.
But Mr Tusk blasted back: "Mr Verhofstadt was heartily and energetically applauded by Mr Farage. This is a good enough reason for you, Mr Verhofstadt, to deeply rethink and reformulate your argumentation."
Elsewhere in the European Parliament debate, Mr Tusk noted that the delay could lead to Brexit being overturned, adding: “We need the dreamers and dreams. We cannot give into fatalism.”
And European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker suggested the 31 October deadline would not be extended, although he added on the prospect of a no-deal Brexit: “We will never kick out one of our members.”