Yesterday, Belgian MEP Gerolf Annemans claimed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Brussels leadership have failed to learn anything from Brexit. The right-wing MEP told the European Parliament that Mrs Merkel will exploit her country’s position as President of the European Union to “accelerate” integration among member states. He urged EU leaders to pay attention to Brexit, claiming that “the citizens of the EU” are overwhelmingly against “more Europe”.
Mr Annemans told MEPs: “Contrary to what we might have expected, the EU did not keep it down after Brexit. On the contrary, the accelerator pedal in favour of a unified European state has been engaged in many areas.
“According to the habits of the European Union, this happened without taking into account the feeling alive within the population.”
As many wonder whether the bloc will be able to survive the coronavirus crisis and a no deal Brexit, unearthed reports reveal how Germany, in tandem with the EU, was accused of trying to prevent Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc by influencing the 2017 general election.
According to a 2017 report by The Telegraph, senior officials in the German government and in Brussels openly mocked Theresa May in what was described as an attempt to undermine the former Prime Minister.
Ahead of the general election in June 2017, Mrs Merkel claimed Britain had “illusions” over what it could hope to achieve from Brexit.
Weakening Mrs May’s mandate with the electorate tilted the balance in favour of the EU negotiators, and Conservative sources suggested she was the victim of a coordinated plot.
One close ally of Mrs May said: “There is a long-standing tradition that countries do not involve themselves in the elections of other countries, and they seem to be breaking that.”
Mrs May had warned former EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker that he would have found her to be a “bloody difficult woman” if he refused to compromise during Brexit negotiations.
Asked by the BBC if she was taking a “realistic” approach over the negotiations, Mrs May said: “I think what we’ve seen recently is that at times these negotiations are going to be tough.
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“Now during the Conservative Party leadership campaign I was described by one of my colleagues as a bloody difficult woman. And I said at the time the next person to find that out will be Jean-Claude Juncker.”
Martin Selmayr, the former German chief of staff to Mr Juncker and a personal friend of Mrs Merkel, was believed to be behind a leak that claimed Mrs May was “deluded” over her Brexit demands.
Michael Roth, Germany’s Minister of State for Europe, also undermined Mrs May, using Twitter to say: “The British government must abandon [the] myth that all British will be better off post-Brexit.”
And Guy Verhofstadt, the lead Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament, openly mocked Mrs May’s negotiating skills.
Picking up on her campaign slogan of “strong and stable leadership”, he said: “Any Brexit deal requires a strong & stable understanding of the complex issues involved. The clock is ticking – it’s time to get real.”
Tory MP Sir Bill Cash said he was “certain” that Germany and the EU were trying to influence the general election by undermining Mrs May.
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He said: “What they are doing is trying to exploit a new kind of ‘project fear’ and that is not going to work on the British people.
“They are also trying to use negotiations as a means of influencing the German general election later this year. They are playing an unwise and dangerous game and I think they have been working towards this for a long time.”
Former European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, said he would not comment on leaks, but added: “I have the impression sometimes that our British friends – not all of them – do underestimate the technical difficulties we have to face… there are issues that clearly are not understood the same way.”
Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister and an outspoken critic of the EU, told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “Nothing was more predictable than this kind of clash, the substantial policy and tactic of the Brussels politicians and bureaucrats of effectively stalling and constantly shifting the goalposts in any such negotiations.”
He said any attempt to negotiate a mutually beneficial deal was going to be defeated by the reality in Brussels.