Guy Verhofstadt Britain could be handed an accelerated path to re-join the European Union if it decides to reapply for membership after it has left the bloc, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator has claimed.
Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister and arch European federalist, said that future British governments would have a way back into Europe if they decided to reverse course after Brexit, possibly even on a fastrack.
That is always possible, he said in an interview in the US during the visit of Theresa May, They can always reintroduce a request for membership of the European Union.
Certainly, we have enough experience to make it a little bit a faster process than what is normal, he added.
Mr Verhofstadt’s remarks to Al Jazeera English reflect a stubborn strand of thought in Brussels EU institutions and some EU capitals that Britain will bitterly regret its decision to quit the EU and will soon be seeking a way to rejoin the club.
British Brexit negotiators still have fears that even after Theresa May’s forthright Brexit speech earlier this month that the misplaced belief among some of the European elite that Britain might step back from the brink will tempt some to drive a harder bargain with the UK.
In their hearts, some of them still hope we won’t go through with it, a senior British official close the negotiations told The Telegraph following several high-level meetings with EU officials and senior government ministers earlier this month.
Mr Verhofstadt, who is currently fighting a battle with the European Council and European Commission for a seat at the Brexit negotiating table, repeated that the EU was determined that Britain must be made worse off by it’s decision to leave.
Whilst stopping short of calling for a punitive deal, Mr Verhofstadt said the EU would be guided by the principle that you can never have outside the European Union a better status than as member of the European Union.
He also ruled out Mrs May’s contention that the UK could wrap up the outlines of a trade deal, saying that was technically impossible a reference to the EU’s hardline position that Britain must first complete the terms of its ‘divorce’ agreement, including hefty payments, before starts talks on a new free trade deal.
Asked why he thought the British public had elected to leave an organisation which Mr Verhofstadt so passionately advocates as a force for good in Europe, he singled out the issue of free movement of people. Mainly the migration, he said, It’s very clear.