Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg

EU Won’t Let U.K. Be Better Off Post-Brexit, Negotiator Says

  • Guy Verhofstadt says leaving EU means U.K. can’t keep benefits
  • But European lawmaker says bloc doesn’t want to punish Britain

The European Union will work to ensure the U.K. won’t be in a better position after Brexit, the European Parliament’s negotiator said.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May “announced a very radical Brexit because she knows that the European Union will never accept a situation in which the status of a country outside the union is more favorable than to be a member of the European Union,” Guy Verhofstadt said on Wednesday in Washington.

Guy Verhofstadt

Photographer: Frederick Florin/AFP via Getty Images

With Britain preparing to trigger the formal start of negotiations in March, both sides are laying out their initial positions. Rhetoric has intensified since May talked up a trade deal with the U.S. and hinted that the U.K. could slash corporate tax rates.

May flies to the U.S. on Thursday and is expected to hold preliminary discussions on trade with President Donald Trump in the White House on Friday. She wants a quick deal with America to bolster exports, boost British jobs and strengthen her negotiating position as the U.K. prepares to leave the EU.

Verhofstadt said the election of Trump, who has spoken out in favor of Brexit, was a “wake-up call” for the EU.

Verhofstadt, who is representing the EU Parliament on Brexit, said the remaining 27 governments were united in making sure Britain can’t pick off the best parts of EU membership. While the European assembly doesn’t have a direct say in the negotiations, it does have to give its consent to any final deal.

“It’s not a question of revenge or punishment; they have taken their decision so we need a fair, clear agreement,” Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister, told an audience at an event organized by the German Marshall Fund of the U.S.

He reiterated that the negotiations need to take no more than 15 months once May activates the EU’s Article 50 because of the period necessary for the EU Parliament to give its approval.

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