Lara Keay – Daily Mail May 22, 2019
Guy Verhofstadt has told The Times the rise of populism and the far-right could bring down the Union by 2024 if they cannot be replaced by a ‘new vision of the EU’.
The former Belgian Prime Minister, 66, compared Boris Johnson to France’s Marine Le Pen, as he emerged as the favourite to replace Theresa May.
Mr Verhofstadt slammed his regular European Parliament enemy Nigel Farage, claiming he secretly doesn’t want Brexit to happen as it would make him irrelevant.
His scathing attack also included accusations that Russia has been manipulating the European elections – ‘like they did with the Brexit referendum’.
He told the newspaper: ‘What the Boris Johnsons, the Farages, the Le Pens and the others represent is huge. It cannot be business as usual.
‘If European politicians don’t show direction for the future, then we will fall massively back into nationalism, populism, Euroscepticism.
‘If there are not Europeans who can transcend with a vision of a new EU, then if it is not in 2019 it will be in 2024 that they take over the EU and destroy it.’
A businessman is in a bid to sue Mr Johnson over his claim during the referendum campaign that Britain sends the EU £350million a week.
Marcus Ball, 29, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court last week to start the private case against Mr Johnson for allegedly abusing public trust during the EU referendum campaign.
He alleges that the former foreign secretary committed misconduct in public office by endorsing and making statements which he knew to be false at a time when he was mayor of London and an MP.
Meanwhile Mr Farage will be subject to an EU investigation over claims he broke the rules by failing to declare a £450,000 donation from pro-Brexit businessman Aaron Banks.
Mr Verhofstadt claims he wants Brexit to be delayed as long as possible, because Britain actually leaving the European Union would mean the end of his career.
He also expressed concerns about populist parties in EU countries that have been rumoured links to Vladimir Putin’s regime.
France’s Le Pen and Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini have been accused of having financial links to the Kremlin.
Mr Verhofstadt and his fellow EU leaders, including Donald Tusk and Jean Claude Juncker, have been slammed by Eurosceptic MPs for calling on Britons to ‘thwart Brexit’ with their European Election vote tomorrow.
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘They are the most unpopular people in the UK – Guy Verhofstadt, Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker – all of them.
‘Every time they open their mouths it reminds people why they are opposed to the EU.’
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘Mr Tusk has probably done nothing more than become a recruiting sergeant for the Brexit Party.’
Theresa May yesterday urged MPs to pass a ‘new’ version of her Brexit deal on the promise she would allow them a vote on a second referendum if they do.
Her Tory rival Boris and Labour have both slammed the plans and have said they will not vote for it.