By Ben Kerrigan -
EU Commission’s First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans has derided British ministers who came to negotiate Brexit as running around like idiots without a plan. He said he expected a “Harry Potter-like book of tricks” from ministers.
Speaking to BBC’s Panorama in March 2019, for the programme to be aired today(Thursday), the Dutch politician and experienced diplomat said ministers were like Lance Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army. With barely three months to go before Britain’s proposed date to ensure a departure from the EU under the new prime minister, likely to be Boris Johnson.
Timmermans told the programme that he has always felt that leading Tory contender, Boris Johnson, was playing games. His outright condemnation for British ministers present them as gamblers in a matter of significant consequence.
Negotiations between the UK and EU began in 2017 after Prime Minister Theresa May triggered the Article 50 process to leave the bloc. At the end of 2018, a withdrawal agreement was settled between the two sides and EU officials said the matter was closed. The leading EU official said that many in Brussels had overestimated Britain’s diplomatic skills, as senior figures in the Government attempted to negotiate its exit from the EU.
MPs voted against the plan three times, which led to a number of delays to the exit date – now set for 31 October. In an interview in March 2019 with the BBC’s Nick Robinson, Mr Timmermans said he found it “shocking” how unprepared the UK team was when it began negotiations.
“We thought they are so brilliant,” he said. “That in some vault somewhere in Westminster there will be a Harry Potter-like book with all the tricks and all the things in it to do.”
But after seeing the then-Brexit Secretary David Davis – who resigned over his disagreements with the deal – speaking in public, his mind changed.
“I saw him not coming, not negotiating, grandstanding elsewhere [and] I thought, ‘Oh my God, they haven’t got a plan, they haven’t got a plan.’ “That was really shocking, frankly, because the damage if you don’t have a plan…
“Time’s running out and you don’t have a plan. It’s like Lance Corporal Jones, you know, ‘Don’t panic, don’t panic!’ Running around like idiots.
“Perhaps I am being a bit harsh, but it is about time we became a bit harsh. I am not sure he was being genuine,” he said.
“I have always had the impression he is playing games.”