Brexit was ‘a stupid decision’ but it would be arrogant to intervene, EU official declares
‘The only people who can reverse it would be the British people and I am not a dreamer’
The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union was “stupid” and only the will of the British people could stop it, Martin Selmayr, chief of staff to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said Monday.
“Brexit is bad, and it’s a stupid decision,” Selmayr said at a conference in Brussels. “The only people who can reverse it would be the British people and I am not a dreamer, I am a realist. Brexit will happen on March 29, 2019.”
Selmayr, one of the most powerful people in the EU hierarchy, spoke two days after the union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said British people need to be “educated” about the price they’ll pay for their decision, according to reports on the BBC.
The UK and EU are in increasingly bad-tempered negotiations over the terms of Britain’s withdrawal. The British government refused to accept that it has financial obligations beyond its regular annual membership fees. The EU says it won’t open talks on a future trade arrangement.
Selmayr said that while it was “legally” possible for the UK to reverse its decision, “it would be arrogant of us” to say the EU could force it to happen.
“The door of the European Union after March 2019 will always be open, and to all of our British friends, of course that is something that we humanly wish,” Selmayr said. “But politically at the moment this option is not on the table.”
Although he has no direct role in the negotiations, Selmayr has commented sporadically about Brexit since the referendum in 2016. He has said the split won’t be a success for Britain, took to Twitter to complain about a London decision to delay a routine review of the EU’s budget in before June’s general election and was widely blamed in the UK and Germany for leaking details of a confidential dinner in April attended by him, Juncker and US Prime Minister Theresa May.
Time is running out for the UK to get a deal on arrangements for its departure from the EU, with complex separation issues, the money argument and a plan for a transition period far from being resolved. It will leave the EU 19 months regardless of whether it has a deal.