EU Parliament chief Brexit negotiator urges Theresa May not to hide from MEPs

  • Guy Verhofstadt urges Theresa May to speak to MEPs directly when she visits European Parliament.
  • Prime Minister May only plans to speak to Parliament leaders behind closed doors.
  • Verhofstadt warns Britain that security will not be used as a “trade off” against other issues in Brexit negotiations.

LONDON — The European Parliament’s chief Brexit spokesperson, Guy Verhofstadt, has urged Theresa May to openly address MEPs when she visits the Parliament, saying it would be “helpful” for Brexit negotiations.

Prime Minister May has so far resisted calls to publicly address the European Parliament when she visits. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday morning, Verhofstadt confirmed that May had accepted an invitation to visit the Brussels-based court but had only agreed to speak to Parliament leaders behind closed doors.

Verhofstadt said the prime minister’s visit would be more beneficial for Britain if she speaks to the Parliament’s 750 members directly, reminding May that any Brexit deal will require Parliament’s approval before being finalised.

“I am very pleased that Mrs May has accepted the invitation of European Parliament to visit the European Parliament,” the former Belgian prime minister told journalists, adding that he does not know when May plans to visit.

He went on to urge the prime minister to consider addressing MEPs in person rather than just holding meetings behind closed doors. “That can only be helpful because it will be the European Parliament at the end will need to give green light to outcome of negotiations,” he said.

“Because what is at stake at the moment are issues that are very near to the heart of European Parliament and most members of European Parliament.”

No security trade off

Verhofstadt welcomed the UK government’s pledge to work closely with the EU on security after Brexit but warned British negotiators that security cannot be used as a “trade off” against other issues in negotiations.

“In the European Parliament’s resolution we have already said that we think there needs to be close cooperation on internal and external security, but we also said this cannot be used as a trade off on other issues like trade relations.

“It’s not ‘oh, if you give us a good deal on one we’ll offer you coop on security’. For us, it’s absolutely key that there is a close relationship on the issue — it’s in the interest of everybody and our citizens — but there can be no trade off one against the other. I want to repeat this because it’s the opinion of the majority here.”

This is a developing story…

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