Guy Verhofstadt today labelled Boris Johnson a ‘traitor’ in an incendiary speech in the European Parliament as the EU and UK remained locked in a state of Brexit stalemate.
The European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator said the proposals put forward by Mr Johnson last week were ‘not serious’ as he accused the PM of ‘pushing Britain’ out of the bloc.
Mr Verhofstadt claimed Mr Johnson treated anyone who opposed him on Brexit as a ‘traitor’ or as a ‘collaborator’ before telling MEPs that the ‘real traitor’ was actually the British PM.
He said: ‘All those who are not playing his game are traitors, or collaborators, or surrenderers.
‘Well, in my opinion, dear colleagues, the real traitor is he or she who would risk bringing disaster upon his country, its economy, its citizens by pushing Britain out of the European Union. That is, in my opinion, a traitor.’
Mr Verhofstadt’s comments are likely to further sour an already difficult and tense relationship between the EU and UK which is increasingly feeling the strain as the October 31 Brexit deadline approaches.
Guy Verhofstadt, pictured in the European Parliament in Brussels yesterday, today claimed that Boris Johnson was a ‘traitor’ to the UK
Mr Johnson, pictured in Downing Street on October 3, is due to meet Leo Varadkar for crunch Brexit talks tomorrow
Leading figures in the Brexit process today insisted that all was not lost in the battle to agree a deal before Halloween.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said he was working together with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on a last-gasp solution as he warned Number 10 against playing a ‘blame game’.
He told MEPs this afternoon: ‘Personally, I don’t exclude a deal. Michel and myself are working on a deal.’
Meanwhile, Mr Barnier insisted the EU is willing to talk to the UK ’24/7′ in order to strike a new divorce accord.
He said that currently ‘we are not really in a position where we are able to find an agreement’ but that could change and he believed a deal was ‘still possible’.
He told the European Parliament: ‘We will be available 24/7 in the upcoming days to try and reach an agreement… I think if there is goodwill on all sides, an agreement is still possible.’
In a sign that European leaders are desperately trying to keep the hope of a deal alive, Mr Johnson and Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taioseach, will meet for secret talks at an undisclosed location in the north west of England tomorrow.
But Mr Verhofstadt risked throwing a grenade into those talks as he launched an astonishing attack on Mr Johnson.
He said: ‘I think that the proposal that Boris Johnson exactly one week ago has put forward was not serious at all.
‘Not serious at all because it was in fact, I call it a virtual proposal, it was not a real proposal. It gives, in fact, a veto to the DUP in a number of issues.’
He continued: ‘The real reason why this is all happening is very simple. It’s a blame game. A blame game against everybody.
‘A blame game against the union, against Ireland, against Mrs Merkel, against the British judiciary system, against Labour, against the Lib Dems, even against Mrs May.
‘The only one who is not being blamed is Mr Johnson himself apparently, but all the rest are the source of our problems.’
Michel Barnier, pictured in Brussels today, said that he would be available ’24/7′ to talk Brexit with the UK in order to try to agree a deal
Mr Verhofstadt then claimed that Mr Johnson was a ‘traitor’ to the UK because by going ahead with Brexit he was ‘bringing disaster upon his country’.
Tomorrow’s talks between Mr Johnson and Mr Varadkar are likely to be viewed as a last chance for a breakthrough which could put Britain and Brussels on course for an orderly split on Halloween.
As things stand the mood is grim on both sides of the English Channel about the prospects of an accord being done with just 22 days left until the UK’s departure date.
Mr Johnson submitted proposals to the EU last Wednesday setting out how he believed the Irish backstop could be scrapped.
But his blueprint was given short shrift by the bloc and things came to a head yesterday in a furious phone call with Angela Merkel who reportedly told Mr Johnson a deal could only be done if Northern Ireland stayed in the customs union.
The PM refused on the grounds that it would effectively mean isolating Ulster from the rest of the UK.
Speaker John Bercow (pictured in the Commons last night) faced allegations of ‘plotting’ today after it emerged he met the boss of the European Parliament to discuss their ‘shared’ desire to avoid No Deal
David Sassoli revealed he held talks with Mr Bercow in London last night, telling MEPs they were on the ‘same wavelength’
Mr Verhofstadt’s bombshell intervention and ongoing question marks over whether a deal is possible came as Commons Speaker John Bercow faced allegations of ‘plotting’ after it emerged he met the boss of the European Parliament to discuss their ‘shared’ desire to avoid No Deal.
David Sassoli revealed he had held talks with Mr Bercow in London, telling MEPs they were on the ‘same wavelength’.
Mr Sassoli said the pair agreed that the UK and EU Parliaments must have a key role in ‘managing’ the Brexit process.
‘We share an awareness that a chaotic exit of the UK from the EU would work to the detriment of citizens on both sides,’ he said.
But the news sparked anger from Eurosceptics including Nigel Farage, who said it was a ‘disgrace’ that the president and the Speaker had ‘agreed to work to prevent a clean break Brexit’.
‘What right does the Speaker have to do this?’ he demanded.