Europe

Look who’s laughing now! Verhofstadt once claimed UK without EU is ‘dwarf on world level’

Guy Verhofstadt on EU 'standing up' to Putin in 2018

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Britain and Australia announced a free trade deal on Tuesday evening. The UK Government hailed the “ambitious” agreement as an important step in building new trade relationships following its departure from the EU. Britain said cars, Scotch whisky and confectionery would be cheaper to sell in Australia as a result of the deal, which removes tariffs and reduces red tape.

On the other hand, Australia said it was a “great win” for Australian agriculture.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I think this is important economically, there’s no question about that … but I think it’s more important politically and symbolically.

“We’re opening up to each other and this is the prelude to a general campaign of opening up around the world.”

As the deal marks the first step towards the Prime Minister’s vision for a post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’, unearthed reports reveal how little faith eurocrats had in the UK.

In an interview with euronews before the 2016 referendum, the European Parliament’s former Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt claimed Britain would be a “dwarf” without the EU.

He said: “I am an optimist.

“I think that they are going to say yes in the referendum, because they are not so stupid, to give up, first of all, the European Union which is economically important for them.

“The City of London for example lives from the payments in euros, more than from the payments in pounds sterling.

“And secondly I think foremost geopolitically, I think British citizens know very well, understand very well, that Britain without the European Union is in fact a dwarf on the world level.”

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He added: “And the same is true for the European Union.

“The European Union without Britain is certainly not a strong continent that can compete with China, with Russia, with the US and other powers.”

According to a book on the Brexit negotiations, Mr Verhofstadt wanted to keep Britain in Europe for as long as possible.

Documentary maker Lode Desmet and BBC broadcaster Edward Stourton shadowed Mr Verhofstadt for almost two years to make a documentary and book on the process leading up to the UK’s first scheduled departure from the bloc on March 29, 2019.

In their book “Blind Man’s Brexit”, published in September, the authors recalled how Mr Verhofstadt and German MEP Elmar Brok wanted the transition period to last for at least three years.

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Celebrating the creation of the Brexit Steering Group (BST) in 2017, which coordinates the European Parliament’s involvement in the Brexit talks, Mr Verhofstadt is quoted as saying: “This is the Brexit Steering Group!

“For two years together… yeah!

“And then the transition period also.

“Again three years. Yeah!”

Mr Brok noted “at least three years”, to which his boss added: “At least!”

So far, the UK has negotiated rollover deals with 66 of these countries.

Talks are ongoing with a further three countries, but the largest agreements have been done.

The UK also signed a deal with Japan in October 2020 – the first that differed from an existing EU deal.

The total value of UK-Japan trade was £31.6bn in 2019, or 2 percent of the UK’s total trade.

An agreement with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, announced on June 4, builds on the EU rollover deal that came into force in January.

The Government says it will boost sectors such as digital and cut tariffs on UK farm products such as cheese and meat.

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