In a plea for the UK to not opt for a 'hard' Brexit, Jo Leinen also suggested British citizens should be given a second EU referendum before Theresa May takes Britain out of the bloc.
“And now it is time to clarify what it means. We’ve heard the speech of Theresa May but maybe the Parliament has other ideas and then at the end I would say the citizens should have a vote again to really say their ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the final outcome.
“I think the door is still open that Britain could stay with us in the European Union.”
SKY • GETTY
Jo Lienen said Britons should be given a second vote on Brexit
Continuing his defence of the bureaucratic bloc, Mr Leinen then claimed Britain would be worse off if it abandoned Brussels completely.
He also suggested Mrs May had been bluffing when she said no deal with the EU was better than a bad deal.
“We know the problems and we have to solve the problems, but hard Brexit, going out of all rules, of all standards that we have worked [for] is the worst deal for Great Britain as well as the remaining 27 partners in the EU,” the MEP said.
“I still hope there is a possible deal that is more flexible and more smooth and that the speech of Theresa May was just a poker game starting point.
Theresa May and Donald Trump met in Washington last week
I think the door is still open that Britain could stay with us in the European Union
“There might be opportunities on the next month to come closer together. Most of the trade Britain does is with the partners here on the continent.”
Get Quotes on Home Insurance
Mr Leinen also suggested that the special relationship between the US and UK, and the promise of future trade deals with leading nations, would not fail to make up for the loss of single market membership.
He said: “I don’t think that Australia or Canada could replace it and looking at the Trump administration where protectionism and America first is priority number one, number two and number three, I think there are some illusions in London that a deal with the US could do better than the common market.
“I don’t think a deal with the US could replace common market. First, it’s bigger and second, it’s established.”
May's Brexit speech: World reacts LIVE
Tue, January 17, 2017
Politicians and celebrities tweet their reaction as Theresa May unveils her 12 point plan for Britain leaving the EU.
1 of 8
President of the European Council, Donald Tusk tweets his frustration.
Revealing her Brexit plan in January, Mrs May vowed to walk away from the talks if Brussels bigwigs tried to punish Britain for voting to leave the bloc.
Mrs May also called for a "bold free trade agreement" between Britain and the EU, in a bid to gain "the maximum freedom" for British companies to trade with their European counterparts.
But she insisted that staying a full member of the single market would not deliver a genuine departure from the EU.
She said: "It is in no one's interests for there to be a cliff edge for business or a threat to stability as we change our existing relationship to a new partnership with the EU.
"By this I do not mean that we will seek some form of unlimited transitional status in which we find ourselves stuck forever in some kind of permanent political purgatory.
Theresa May's 12 point Brexit plan
Mon, January 16, 2017
It's finally here!
1 of 7
Continued cooperation with the EU to tackle terrorism and international crime.
"From that point onwards, we believe that a phased process of implementation, in which both Britain and the EU institutions and member states prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us, will be in our mutual self-interest."
On Monday evening, the European Parliament’s top negotiator claimed Britain could face a £500billion (€600bn) Brexit divorce bill – ten times the figure initially expected.
Speaking to Newsnight, Guy Verhofstadt said: “What I know is the outstanding commitments now and before Britain will leave the European Union will in total be around €600billion (£513billion).
“That’s the reality and you can find in the accounts of the EU.”