Guy Verhofstadt: British students are ‘pro-European’
The MEP addressed the European Parliament today where he urged the EU to allow UK students to continue using the student exchange programme, which was established by the bloc in 1987.
Addressing MEPs today, Mr Verhofstadt said: “And then, last remark that I want to make is a request to Michel Barnier and to the negotiation team that is to do something on Erasmus.
“I know the cherry-picking attitude from the Brits, which is in fact devastating for Erasmus.
“But let’s take a unilateral measure towards the students in Britain that they can continue, unilaterally, to make use of Erasmus.
“It’s a pro-European generation, this young generation, and it’s this generation who will bring back the UK inside the European family in the next decades.”
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However, Mr Verhofstadt’s claims for the EU to “cherry-pick” a deal comes after the bloc rejected any pick-and-choosing from the UK, arguing it was not an option.
In 2016, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said cherry-picking was “not an option”.
He said: “Being a member of the EU comes with rights and benefits.
“Third countries can never have the same rights and benefits, since they are not subject to the same obligations.
“The single market and its four freedoms are invisible – cherry-picking is not an option.”
In June this year, MEPs accused the UK of “cherry-picking” a deal and argued the UK demanding access to the single market after Brexit was “unacceptable”.
MEP Bernd Lange said: “Now is the time of truth and the European Parliament stands united with the European Commission and the Council in rejecting the piecemeal approach by the UK Government to these negotiations leading to separate agreements.
“In this respect, it is no surprise that the EP will reject a trade agreement that does not include robust guarantees for fair competition and fair trade.”
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Kati Piri, Hungarian MEP, added: “The UK’s expectation to keep the benefits of a member state without agreeing to any obligations, including a clear level playing field and governance provisions, is simply not realistic.
“The UK made a conscious decision to leave the single market.
“We respect this. So should the United Kingdom.”
The UK formally left the EU back in January and negotiations have been ongoing since with neither side able to come to an agreement on the likes of fishing, governance and the so-called level playing field.
As the end of the transition period on December 31 looms closer, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a trade deal with the EU looked very unlikely.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister spoke to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen this evening about the state of play in the UK-EU negotiations.
“The Prime Minister underlined that the negotiations were now in a serious situation.
“Time was very short and it now looked very likely that agreement would not be reached unless the EU position changed substantially.
“He said that we were making every effort to accommodate reasonable EU requests on the level playing field, but even though the gap had narrowed some fundamental areas remained difficult.
“On fisheries, he stressed that the UK could not accept a situation where it was the only sovereign country in the world not to be able to control access to its own waters for an extended period and to be faced with fisheries quotas which hugely disadvantaged its own industry.
“The EU’s position in this area was simply not reasonable and if there was to be an agreement it needed to shift significantly.
“The Prime Minister repeated that little time was left. He said that, if no agreement could be reached, the UK and the EU would part as friends, with the UK trading with the EU on Australian-style terms.
“The leaders agreed to remain in close contact.”
Ms Von der Leyen also issued a similar warning and said, while the negotiations had made “substantial progress”, there were still “big differences”.
Following a phone call with Mr Johnson yesterday, she said: “This evening I took stock with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the on-going negotiations for a comprehensive Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
“We welcomed substantial progress on many issues. However, big differences remain to be bridged, in particular on fisheries. Bridging them will be very challenging.
“Negotiations will continue tomorrow.”
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