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EU negotiator hits out at Boris Johnson for saying some young Britons have 'split allegiances'

Guy Verhofstadt told the Dáil that the EU will not allow Ireland to suffer because of Brexit.

Guy Verhofstadt told the Dáil today that Johnson's recent comments were old-fashioned.
Guy Verhofstadt told the Dáil today that Johnson's recent comments were old-fashioned.
Image: Press Association

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT BREXIT negotiator Guy Verhofstadt has hit out against Boris Johnson for denouncing some British people who want to “keep their European identity”.

Addressing a joint sitting of the Oireachtas Committees on European Affairs, Foreign Affairs, and the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, Verhofstadt said:

“I know some British politicians, not to name Boris Johnson, criticise their countrymen and women for wanting to keep their European identity.

“He accused them even of split allegiance. I think this is a binary, old fashioned and reductionary definition of identity. So I think it’s nonsense to talk about split allegiance.”

Johnson recently wrote a 4,000-word article for the Daily Telegraph in which he urged Britain to make a clean break with the European Union after Brexit and criticised young people for having “split allegiances”.

Verhofstadt said it is his view that identities are multi-layered and complex and that “should bring people together not divide them”.

He said it is “perfectly possible to feel English, British and European at the same time” in the same way that many other Europeans also identify with their national identity.

guy 1 Guy Verhofstadt addressing the Dáil today.

He told the Dáil today that Europe will never allow Ireland to suffer because of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

“What we will never allow is that Ireland will suffer from the British decision to leave the EU,” he said.

“That is a commitment that has been made by the European parliament and by the EU as a whole.”

“Ireland must not pay the price for Brexit,” he said, adding that Irish interests are a top priority for Europe.

He added that Ireland will not be used as a “bargaining chip” in the negotations. The reemergence of border question was not caused Ireland or the rest of the Europe, but by Britain’s choice to leave the EU, said the Belgian MEP.

A resolution to the border question is entirely the responsibility of Britain, he said.

“It is up to them to come up with a workable solution,” said Verhofstadt, adding that Britain must have a soft border with Northern Ireland.

“One way or another it [Northern Ireland] should remain part of Customs Union and the single market,” he said, stating that it is “nonsense” and “crazy” to put forward an idea of restricted movement.

Brexit Leo Varadkar with European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt on his arrival at Government Buildings. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Solidarity-PBP Richard Boyd Barrett, who previously questioned Michel Barnier (the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator) on similar issues, asked how Ireland could trust the EU in light of Ireland being punished for the banking collapse.

“I have no doubt of the stupidity and obnoxiousness of the Tory position, but how can we take you seriously when you say that you will not allow the punishment of Ireland,” he asked.

“We know the Irish people have made choice to remain at the core of Europe, we will never let them down,” said Verhofstadt.

He added that Brexit has offered an “ideal” moment to look at reforming Europe.

“It is something we need to do as well… it is the ideal moment now to reflect,” he said, highlighting that Europe needs to be strong on the world’s stage to fight against its challenges and fight against President Donald Trump’s protectionism.

He said people have started to vote pro-European again, but said this was not to say everyone was in favour of the EU in its current state, adding that the people of Europe are saying: “we will give you one last chance to make it work, to make Europe work.”

Concluding his speech to the Dáil he said be believed it is achievable, quoting a Seamus Heaney line:

“We believe that a further shore is reachable from here.”

There was some controversy prior to Verhofstadt’s visit today, with members of the Dáil debating yesterday whether MEPs and MPs could address the chamber.

While the visit is welcome, Sinn Féin said it was disappointed that MPs and MEPs were denied speaking rights despite some being members of the Good Friday Agreement Committee.

“The decision to deny speaking rights to Irish MPs flies in the face of the need for an all-Ireland approach to Brexit,” said Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard.

The party challenged the Ceann Comhairle on the decision and has sought legal advice.

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