MEPs debated a report put forward by Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt
Politicians on both the left and right savaged proposals by Brussels’ Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, which would centralise European economic policy and severely reduce the influence of the member states.
One furious Italian MEP described the euro currency as a “criminal project” which had wrought economic devastation on the continent, whilst others blasted the project as “finished” in its current state.
But europhile politicians defended calls for more European integration, saying only through greater pooling of powers can they combat the range of crises facing the struggling bloc.
In a report put before the EU parliament in Strasbourg today Mr Verhofstadt, who will represent MEPs in the Brexit talks, presented a range of ambitious proposals which would merge Europe’s foreign and economic polices together.
The former Belgian PM suggests the creation of a full-time Brussels foreign minister to represent the bloc internationally and a finance minister who would set tax levels across the continent.
His dossier would also massively boost the power of the EU Parliament, the project’s only elected body, putting it on a par with the member states in key areas including budgeting.
Former Ukip MEP Steven Woolfe accused Brussels of acting like a 'dictatorship'
Tory MEP Ashley Fox said the changes amounted to an EU superstate
Tory MEP Ashley Fox blasted: “This report seeks to create a United States of Europe instead of listening to the people.
“It is telling them Brussels knows best. It is centralising power and instead of strengthening democracy it is weakening it.
“This is a dreadful report. The EU has to change, but not like this.”
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In a fiery intervention former Ukip MEP Steven Woolfe accused Brussels of acting like a “dictatorship” with its plans for federalisation including a “common army and common banking system”.
He raged: “All of these were done by the Communists, by the Holy Roman Empire, by the Egyptians, by any kind of dictatorship trying to control the people.”
His former Ukip colleague Diane James, herself also now an independent, said Brussels was “incapable of proper and radical reform” and as a result would not be able keep the populist surge at bay.
The EU has to change, but not like this
Tory MEP Ashley Fox
She said: “When is this institution going to get real take away the blinkers and understand that radical reform is what people really want.
“If you’re going to stop euroscepticism it’s no good papering over the cracks and every time responding with more Europe.”
And it was not just British politicians who were infuriated by the proposals, which are being seen by eurosceptics as an unacceptable encroachment on national sovereingty.
In response Italian MEP Marco Zanni described the EU as a “criminal project” and predicted that eurosceptic politicians will sweep to victory in upcoming elections.
Describing Brexit as a “failure of the EU” he raged: “The single currency has been a criminal project which has really made European citizens turn their backs on the project.
“It [the EU] is basically the walking dead with these approaches. We need to have sovereign states which are independent.”
Mr Zanni cited polling figures in his homeland which he said show that only one in three Italians now believe that the European Union is a positive influence on their lives.
And he blasted: “The proof of the pudding will really be elections in the larger European countries in the coming months, where the Eurosceptic politicians will surely gain ground.
“With an EU which brings poverty and economic destruction I certainly think they will win the next elections.”
Fellow Italian Barbara Spinelli said that eurocrats were presenting “technical” solutions to the EU’s problems because “crises are being seen as alien, external events and not failures of the EU”.
She said: “The devastating event of Brexit is the child of Grexit and the social disaster which forces citizens to actually want to disappear from the union.”
The left-wing politician said the proposals put forward would just “speed up” what had caused Europe’s crises in the first place and would “divide citizens and make them want to turn their backs on the union”.
In a withering attack she blasted: “The EU is totally indifferent to the principle of reality.”
Slovakian MEP Branislav Skripek said the proposals would be a “total disaster” and called on the EU to drop federalism and “respect national states and their citizens”.
He said: “What have we learned from Brexit just recently? This is what creates anger and opposition and is feeding the rise of extremist movements.”
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And Austrian MEP Harald Vlimsky said: “The EU has no future. After Brexit we should realise that the British weren’t poor Europeans because they turned their back on Brussels.
“They wanted more sovereignty, more independence, they wanted to move away from the hurtling course of federalisation in Brussels.
“Those who want a strong future for Europe agree with us and they will shape the future, not you.”
Defending the report Mr Verhofstadt said it presented a "vision for the future" which was the only way to make people reconnect with the EU project.
The Brexit negotiator added that it would lead to a "smaller Commission" and streamlined EU institutions rather than increasing bureacracy.
He said: "We need to gain a vision in Europe, a project in Europe. It’s only then that people and citizens can all again be converted to the European ideals, when we show the way forward and show vision for the future.
"I’m very encouraged that the big majority of the house has supported the report instead of the extremes on the left and the right."
MEPs will vote on the report on Thursday.