European politicians have traded insults over Britain’s decision to quit the bloc, squabbling over who was to blame and what to do next.
Brexiteers were likened to rats off a sinking ship, while EU federalists were accused of pushing the unrealistic ideal of a “United States of Europe”.
“The Brexit heroes of yesterday are now the sacked Brexit heroes of today,” said European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, referring to former London mayor, Boris Johnson, and erstwhile Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, who relinquished the party chair on Monday. “Those who have contributed to the situation in the UK have resigned: Johnson, Farage and others,” Mr Juncker said, at a European Parliament debate in Strasbourg. “They are retro-nationalists, not patriots. Patriots don’t resign when things get difficult. They stay.”
The MEPs’ debate threw into sharp relief the schism in Europe between those countries, led by France and Belgium, that want a more integrated EU, and those, mainly eastern European countries, that want to take back decision-making.
Fine Gael MEP, Seán Kelly, said that while Ireland was “fully committed to an EU of equals”, there should be no more “special meetings of the original six”.
Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, an Independent MEP, called for the bloc to be dismantled.
Mr Juncker said the EU’s work would not be led by the UK referendum result.
“The British vote was nothing to do with Europe,” Mr Juncker said. “We must stop interpreting the vote, which took place in Britain, as a vote which should be shaping policy in Europe.”
Ukip’s Paul Nuttall pleaded for colleagues to “put aside the language of conflict”, adding: “The British people have spoken, and threats and bullying are not the answer.”
But former Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, who leads Parliament’s liberal group, said: “The Brexiteers, they remind me of rats fleeing a sinking ship. Cameron resigned, Johnson abandoned, and Farage wants more time for himself and his family to spend his European salary, apparently.”
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