LONDON – Jeremy Corbyn should be part of the UK’s Brexit negotiating team after Theresa May lost her majority in parliament, a senior EU official has said.
Guy Verhofstadt told the Independent that the general election result was “a rejection of Theresa May’s vision for a hard Brexit,” and that negotiations should include “diverse opinions.”
The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator also said that the way Brexit has been handled so far is “chaotic” and that delays in the negotiation process have created “uncertainty” for all sides in the talks.
Verhofstadt said: “Brexit is about the whole of the UK. It will affect all UK citizens, and EU citizens in the UK. This is much bigger than one political party’s internal divisions or short term electoral positioning. It’s about people’s lives
“I believe the negotiations should involve more people with more diverse opinions. Some recognition that the election result was, in part, a rejection of Theresa May’s vision for a hard Brexit would be welcome.”
When pressed on whether this meant opposition party leaders should be included in Britain’s negotiating team, a spokesman for Verhofstadt told the Independent: “Absolutely.”
Labour leader Corbyn met with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier last week, along with the shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer for a “friendly and constructive meeting,” laying out Labour’s Brexit plans.
Corbyn said: “Labour has extended the hand of partnership for a new relationship with Europe and we outlined how our goal of a jobs-first Brexit deal would protect our mutual trading interests… The General Election result has clearly changed the context for the Brexit talks and means the Government will have to listen to Parliament and will not be able to have it all its own way.”
Verhofstadt also said: “Regarding the handling of Brexit so far, I think it has been somewhat chaotic. It has been over a year since the referendum now and we have only just started the negotiations. This delay has created uncertainty, which has not been good for anybody – not for the UK, not for the EU and not for citizens.”
The former prime minister of Belgium is in charge of the European Parliament’s approach to Brexit, and the parliament has the right to veto a Brexit deal, meaning Verhofstadt has an important role.
Verhofstadt highlighted the “red lines” that have been set out by the parliament, and said: “It is a very detailed resolution which clearly stated that citizens interest must be a priority, there should not be a trade-off between security and the future economic relationship, no hard border in Ireland, the UK must honour all obligations (including budgetary obligations) it has committed to, and importantly there is to be no cherry picking.”
Brexit negotiations resume on Monday morning with Brexit secretary David Davis meeting with Barnier in Brussels, and it is expected that EU citizens rights in the UK is going to be top of the agenda.
The Conservative government’s proposals would strip EU citizens in the UK of multiple rights, and would deprive them of European Court of Justice protection.
Verhofstadt called these plans a “damp squib,” warning that it would leave millions of EU citizens in the UK with “second-class citizenship.”