Instead of dividing Europeans, the UK’s decision to leave the European Union has united citizens across the bloc while also revealing the British political system’s inability to overcome party differences, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, told Kathimerini in an interview published on Monday.
Faced with such existential problems, one would expect Britain’s two main parties to cooperate, but this has not really happened, he said, adding that the battle between the Labour Party and the Conservatives appears to be more important than the imminent Brexit. If talks between the EU and the United Kingdom fail, it will be the result of this conflict, he said. Asked whether the two sides are heading toward a hard Brexit, he said “it’s impossible to answer,” and pointed to Greek examples where political decisions were taken at the last minute.
Moving to the subject of Greece, Verhofstadt said the country should intensify its structural reforms. “I always said that they are not enough,” he commented, adding that both the International Monetary Fund and the European Union focused only on correcting the figures during the eight-year bailout period instead of real reforms. Greek politicians, for their part, wanted to maintain the clientelistic system which produces votes and avoids making basic changes, such as opening closed professions, he said. “It is a failure of both,” he added.
Commenting on the upcoming European Parliament elections this May, Verhofstadt, who is also the chairman of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), pointed to polls showing that the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Party of European Socialists (PES) will likely not be able to form a majority and will need ALDE’s support. “We have to use it as a leverage,” he said, noting that these EU elections will be Europe’s “one chance” to unite the continent.
The main issue raised by Euroskeptics is migration, but the irony is that the main reason for this is that there is not enough Europe to deal with it, he continued: There are no new Dublin rules in place nor EU coast guard to resolve the problem. If the bloc fails to reform itself, populists and nationalists will succeed in stopping the EU project.