In an extraordinarily frank intervention Pierre Vimont, a former top-ranking eurocrat, accused the UK Government of being “in denial of reality” and mocked Theresa May’s pledge to create a Global Britain open to the world.
In contrast he said France would forge ahead with ambitious plans for the future of the euro club, including the creation of an EU army and reforms to tie the eurozone’s economies ever closer together.
French diplomat Pierre Vimont bashed Brexit
Mr Vimont, a former French ambassador to the US and ex head of the EU’s foreign policy unit, the European External Action Service (EEAS), made the remarks at a book launch in Brussels over the weekend.
They come as British voters gear up to choose between two very divergent paths for the country’s future, with Mrs May promising to oversee a clean Brexit and ambitious free trade drive with our allies around the world.
Labour, on the other hand, has demonstrated muddled thinking over our relationship with the EU, promising to achieve the impossible by ending free movement whilst simultaneously keeping the UK in the single market.
Mr Vimont said EU officials will have to “wait and see” who emerges victorious from the June 8 contest, which is now on a knife-edge, but expressed concern that the British state as a whole has unrealistic expectations about the future.
He said: “I’m having a hard time understanding the core thinking of the British government today. I can’t understand how the British conceive the future of their country.
“How they will rediscover their sovereignty and their independence, as has been said by all the defenders of Brexit, how they want the future of Great Britain to look in terms of in foreign policy and security and defence.”
There is a denial of reality from my British interlocutors
The French diplomat said eurocrats had no idea which path the UK will seek to take in terms of its place on the global stage, but mocked suggestions historic links to the Commonwealth could be the way forward as outdated thinking.
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He said: “I am honestly very surprised sometimes by the extreme confidence at the moment of a lot of the group of British negotiators, when they explain to me more or less that they’re going out into the world with a vision, at least in the long-term, for a Great Britain which has rediscovered its empire…on the sea, on the land.”
Listing countries Britain has said it wants to do trade deals with, including India, Australia, Indonesia and China, he observed: “Their vision of Great Britain is certainly one of the past, of the 19th century.”
Mr Vimont concluded: “I deeply admire British diplomats but there is a denial of reality from my British interlocutors.”
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The French diplomat is not the only senior figure to have mocked Brexit as a misty-eyed throwback to the days of British global dominance, with europhile critics often describing the vote to leave as “Empire 2.0”.
In April Ireland’s EU Commission, Phil Hogan, said trade secretary Liam Fox’s plans to build up economic ties with the world’s emerging economies were “fanciful” and based on nostalgia for the past.
He said: “This aim, based on notions of an Empire 2.0, is somewhat fanciful when you look at the trade-offs the U.K. would have to submit to in order to do deals around the world.”