A former Belgian prime minister, Elio Di Rupo, has sparked controversy after he said he is “glad” the UK is leaving the EU.
His comments directly contradict those of senior EU figures such as Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and his council counterpart Donald Tusk who have universally voiced “sadness” and “regret” that Britain will quit the EU.
In a speech, Di Rupo said he “does not mind” if the UK leaves the 28-strong EU.
Di Rupo, who is Belgium’s Socialist Party chairman, told a group of students on Tuesday in Louvain-la-Neuvethat the EU is caught in a “neoliberal spiral”.
“I’m glad they are leaving,” said Di Rupo who went on to tell his “awful” experience sitting next to the former British prime minister David Cameron at a number of European summits.
“He never once said the word ‘Europe’ out loud, and he never accepted the use of the word during social negotiations.”
Di Rupo, whose power base is in the southern, French-speaking part of Belgium, is equally unconcerned about the fate of the UK, telling the audience: “They have managed to dominate the world with us, and they will continue to do so without us.”
His comments, reported by the Belgian newspaper, Het Nieuwsblad, drew a swift response.
On Thursday, Jayne Adye, director of Eurosceptic group Get Britain Out,told this website, “Like Mr Di Rupo, we’re also glad the UK is leaving the EU. Mr Di Rupo is clearly aware of the gulf in thinking between EU elites like himself and the British public. We do not want any part in Di Rupo and others’ vision of a highly-integrated ‘Europe’. We want to take back control of our laws, our money, and our borders. We will follow our own path and, as Di Rupo said, Britain will do just fine outside the EU.
“Our relationship with the EU will also be better after Brexit, when we are able to co-operate where appropriate as friendly neighbours – meaning awkward encounters like those between Di Rupo and Cameron will become a thing of the past.”
On Thursday, Parliament president Antonio Tajani met UK PM Theresa May in London for talks on the Brexit negotiations.
The talks were also dedicated to an exchange of views with NGOs that have, as one of their main concerns, the rights of European Union citizens in the UK in the Brexit negotiations.
The meeting took place on only the second day of the UK election campaign and many believe the formal Brexit talks will remain on hold until after the election.
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