I would have thought as a former Belgian prime minister you would know it was Field Marshall Haig in 1914 who saved the Belgian town of Ypres from German domination, who then went on in 1918 to lead Britain in its greatest ever military feat, defeating imperial Germany on the Western Front. Far from mocking Haig, as a Belgian, he should be a great hero to you. But never the mind, maybe that sums up your anti Britishness.
Sticking with Belgium, I thought what happened at the summit last week was a national humiliation. An impasse, because we have in Mrs May a prime minister who hasn’t got the courage, who hasn’t got the vision to carry out her many repeated promises, namely to take us out of the European Union this Friday, March the 29th. It is not happening. And we’re witnessing a slow motion betrayal, perhaps the greatest betrayal of any democratic vote in the history of our nation. And the reason, of course, is this withdrawal treaty.
And I’ll go back to the First World War. We won the war, but we had the treaty of Versailles. And this treaty is the modern day equivalent. We have a reparations bill of £39 billion we have to pay, for nothing in return. We have annexation of a part of our national territory in the shape of Northern Ireland. This treaty is a bad piece, it is unacceptable, it is not Brexit, and it will not pass.
Now, I know that you’re all getting terribly excited about what the House of Commons may do over the course of the next week, and we know what they’ll do, they’ll come back with some form of agreement around a customs union and the continued free movement of people. But even if they do that, the one thing that’s inevitable is that we’re headed for an Article 50 extension. And I think you should ask yourselves do you really want that? Do you really want Brexit to utterly dominate the next couple of years of your business to the exclusion of your many other ambitions? Do you really want the United Kingdom to contest the European elections, to send back a very large number of leave MEP’s just at a time when you’re fighting populism as you see it across the continent?
Do you really want me back in this place? Well, there we are. And all for what? Because Brexit is going to happen anyway. Mr. Tusk if you think the British people have changed their minds on Brexit, you sir are deluded, because actually what we now see are opinion leads of 15, and in some cases nearly 20% in favor of leaving. If we had another referendum, leave would win it by a bigger margin. So, why put yourselves through years of agony? I pay great tribute to Mr. Juncker, to Mr. Barnier, to the European Commission. You have prepared your no deal scenario. It is highly professional, it shows that actually leaving with no deal is not going to cause huge disruption. It even suggests that with no deal there’s no need for a visible border in Ireland.
So, I would say to you, to all of you, and national leaders, reject the British extension beyond the 12th of April. Get Britain out, and then we can just get on with the rest of our lives.
To Mr. Farage. Mr. Farage you have presented a passionate argument against the second referendum. But the truth is, that the second referendum took place in 2016, because the first one took place in 1975. And then a vast majority of the British public decided that the place of the UK was in the European community. It was you who thought three years ago that it was possible to organize a referendum in order to invalidate the previous one. Then please be consistent also today. Thank you.
Thank you very much Mr. President.