Verhofstadt says UK unlikely to crash out of EU

Solution to the Brexit problem would probably involve a deal on a customs union

The UK is unlikely to crash out of the European Union, the European Parliament's chief negotiator on Brexit has said.

Speaking on RTÉ, Guy Verhofstadt MEP said a solution to the Brexit problem would probably involve a deal on a customs union and that the only reason that such a deal was not being agreed at the moment was competition between the two largest political parties in the UK.

Speaking on the Claire Byrne Live programme, Mr Verhofstadt pointed to the way Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have co-operated in the interests of the country. "We need a little bit more Irish common sense in British politics."

Mr Verhofstadt said he was not in favour of the withdrawal negotiations persisting when what was needed was for the EU to discuss reform in other areas. The continuation of the Brexit negotiations for the next two or three years would be “bad for everyone, including Ireland. We want to conclude this, as soon as possible; before the [European Parliament] elections.”


He said it was not clear if negotiations were really taking place between the Conservative and Labour parties. He did not see where there was a problem that could not be solved.

Mr Verhofstadt, a former prime minister of Belgium, said he was aware of the “disaster” that would be created by a border “of any form” on the island of Ireland. Such a development could mean a return to violence.

It would be in the interest of the people of Northern Ireland to continue to be in a common travel and common business area, but the problem was that the DUP did not want border controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

European Parliament vice-president Mairead McGuinness MEP, of Fine Gael, said it looked as if the UK would take part in the coming European Parliament elections. She said she would not support any deal that would suggest the return of a hard border. She did not think the UK would crash out of the EU.

Hermann Kelly, of the Irexit Freedom To Prosper Party, who is in favour of Ireland leaving the EU, said EU leaders had said they were "more than happy" to impose a hard border in Ireland.

However, Mr Verhofstadt said no-one involved in the Brexit negotiations was in favour of a hard border in Ireland.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent