The leader of the minnow EU nation insisted the only response Brexit campaigners could conjure up is “no, no, no” instead of taking “responsibility” for Britain’s decision to quit the Brussels project. Mr Bettel met with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, in Luxembourg to discuss Britain’s departure, which is now only 46 days away. The Luxembourger offered a scathing analysis of Brexiteers, much like the recent attack by Donald Tusk, the European Council president, who has seemingly opened the floodgates to an EU enslaught.
Mr Bettel accused Brexiteers of not having the confidence to hold a second referendum in order to gauge the real feeling of Britons after two years of negotiations with Brussels.
He said: “’Today the response of the Brexiteers is non, non, non et non. But they haven’t actually proposed any alternatives.’
The Luxembourgish leader equally hit back at claims that the EU would be responsible for a no-deal Brexit by refusing to renegotiate Theresa May’s draft withdrawal deal.
Mr Bettel added: “Brexit is not our choice, it is the choice of the British. Anyone who says a no-deal Brexit is Europe’s fault doesn’t know their history.”
“We never pushed for Brexit or asked for it.
“The responsibility is with the UK, to find a solution.”
Mr Barnier, who is set to hold his first meeting with Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay in Brussels today, reaffirmed that Brussels would not open the withdrawal agreement to make changes to the backstop.
Pouring cold water over their evening dinner plans, the French negotiator said their first encounter was simply to learn about Britain’s plans for alternative arrangements but will instantly refute them being included in the divorce deal.
He told reporters in Luxembourg: “Tonight I will repeat the EU’s positions, I will listen to what the Secretary of State has to tell us concerning the alternative arrangements which the UK would like, and for which we fixed the perspective in the withdrawal agreement and in the political declaration as a welcome concept.
“But it’s not more of concept today. I will also evaluate the interest from the UK side for possible changes to the political declaration, which, let me remind you, fixes the outline quite precisely for the future separation.
“I want to repeat in front of you, that if the UK wants to be more ambitious for this future relationship, then we stand ready immediately, as the Council of Europe has said, as the Parliament has said.
“I will also listen the Secretary of State’s analysis concerning the next steps by London.”
Mr Barnier suggested that Brussels is only prepared to offer further reassurances that the EU doesn’t plan for theIrish backstop to become a permanent structure.
But he insisted the only changes will come in the political declaration, the non-binding outlook for Britain’s post-Brexit security and trade partnership with the EU.
“We stand ready to give all necessary explanations and all necessary guarantees on the withdrawal agreement act, as have already done the two Presidents Juncker and Tusk,” he said.
“We stand ready to rework with the British the content of the political declaration that sets the frame.
“Maybe there’s a way to explain better, to have more ambition, to put into perspective the content of the accord, and the backstop.
“We stand ready to do this work on the substance of the political declaration, but for all the reasons confirmed by the president of the Council, European commission and Parliament, from the European side, we consider that the work done on the withdrawal agreement on the organisation of the separation, cannot be reopened.”