For the EU, Brexit Is Over as Farage Tells Barnier He’s Won
(Bloomberg) -- While the U.K. grapples with a Brexit deal that almost no one thinks its parliament will approve, the European Union is looking the other way.
Fewer than a tenth of the European Parliament’s 751 elected members bothered to turn up to a debate on Brexit in Brussels on Thursday morning. There were more people in the public gallery than there were lawmakers in the chamber.
Those who were present may have thought they were in an odd dream. Here was EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier being awfully nice about Britain and one of Brexit’s chief architects, Nigel Farage, being awfully nice about Barnier.
The message from Europe is that the deal negotiated over the past 17 months is the only one there will ever be. Barnier said he’ll respect the “democratic debate” in the U.K. but warned “the future of their country is at stake.”
Other lawmakers from across Europe lined up to lament Britain’s “historical mistake,” the “damage done to the U.K.” and to urge a second referendum. Germany’s Elmar Brok cited Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s gloomy analysis and said it’s “a lie to say that things won’t change for the worse.” Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit coordinator in the EU assembly, called Brexit “a failure for everybody.”
For many on the pro-Brexit side in Britain, this shows why foreigners should mind their own business. “There are a lot of experts on domestic British politics these days,” noted the Conservative Party’s Geoffrey Van Orden.
Now that his job is almost done, Barnier was conciliatory, gushing even, about Britain and its people.
“The United Kingdom -- because of her culture, her history, her total solidarity, particularly during the great tragedies that Europe has faced in the 20th century, her economy, the quality of her diplomacy -- is a great country and my respect for it is absolute,” Barnier said.
Farage hates the agreement the U.K. struck with Barnier, which is due to be voted on by the British Parliament on Dec. 11. For him, it’s the “worst deal in history” because its keeps Britain “hostage” to Brussels.
That’s Britain’s government’s fault though, not Barnier’s, who had stuck up for the EU’s interests, said Farage. “It’s game, set and match to you,” he told the Frenchman. “I wish you were on our side.”
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