Guy Verhofstadt's blueprint for the EU was approved by MEPs today
A package of controversial proposals on the bloc’s future was passed by a wafer thin majority in the European Parliament earlier today amid an acrimonious debate about the future direction of the project.
Eurosceptics reacted with fury and disbelief as MEPs approved three separate reports on planned reforms to how Brussels operates, the most contentious of which was drafted by Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt and squeaked through by just 14 votes.
Critics tonight said the fact that such a set of plans could be passed by MEPs demonstrated why the British people voted to leave the EU and that Theresa May needs to press ahead with Brexit.
Ukip MEP Bill Etheridge told express.co.uk: “When you see that this kind of thing can be voted through, it shows we must accelerate Brexit. We’ve got to get out now.
“Guy Verhofstadt is the arch federalist, he’s the absolute symbol of the EU’s desperation to become a nation state. The lunatics are running the asylum and he’s the Mad Hatter.”
And a spokesman for Tory MEPs in Brussels added: "The closeness of this vote, and the failure of Mr Verhofstadt to secure the backing of the majority of MEPs for his report, is further proof that More Europe is not the answer to the EU's problems."
Mr Etheridge, a former leadership candidate, said the report should be vigorously opposed and added: “The efforts to create a European superstate are a bad thing for everyone not least those still trapped inside it.”
He described the plans to create an EU army and finance minister as “exceptionally dangerous” saying they would undermine NATO and wreck the European economy.
Speaking from Stoke, where he has been campaigning with leader Paul Nuttall, he said: “He’s a dangerous man with exceptionally dangerous ideas. The idea of a defence union is quite the most absurd notion I’ve ever heard.
“People like him want the EU to become a superpower to rival America. It’s absolutely cloud cuckoo land.
“It’ll destroy what’s left of the European economy. It’ll be a catastrophe on an enormous scale for the whole of Europe.
Ukip MEP Bill Etheridge called the plans 'extremely dangerous'
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The squeezed through by a wafer-thin majority of 14 votes
Tory MEP Ashley Fox added: “Mr Verhofstadt is very consistent. Whatever the question the answer is always the same – more Europe.
“Britain did not vote to leave the EU because there was not enough Europe. We voted to leave because the EU does too much.
“It has already taken too much power from the Member States and has lost touch with its citizens.
“This report seeks to create a United States of Europe. Instead of listening to the people it is telling them that Brussels knows best.
“Instead of extending democracy it is centralising power. And so, rather than strengthening the EU, it undermines it further.”
When you see that this kind of thing can be voted through, it shows we must accelerate Brexit
Ukip MEP Bill Etheridge
Mr Verhofstadt’s report, which has met with widespread opposition, would curtail the influence of the member states and instead hand sweeping powers to Brussels.
It advocates setting up an EU finance ministry to take control of the continent’s economic policy, the creation of a eurozone budget funded by taxpayers and a move towards a “fully fledged defence union”.
The dossier was approved by a minuscule majority of 14 during a knife-edge vote at the European Parliament in Strasbourg today, demonstrating the huge division among EU politicians over where Europe should go next.
It was passed alongside two other reports, one by German MEP Elmar Brok and the other by France’s Pervenche Berès, which also contain a number of significant reforms.
Together they propose ditching individual countries’ right to a veto on EU laws, standardising tax laws across Europe and boosting the power of the EU parliament compared to the Commission and Council.
One of the reports also suggests taking control of military matters away from member states and putting it in the hands of a “permanent Council of Defence Ministers” instead.
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After the vote Mr Verhofstadt said: “These reports give the blueprint of what a more perfect Union should look like. They do not propose European integration for the sake of it.
“I know we can have a strong, powerful, respected European Union and at the same time have flourishing local and national democracies. In fact, I believe the one is not possible without the other.”
Mr Brok added: ““Citizens expect solutions from Europe, and they are angry because they do not see answers being delivered.
“This is evident in a time with many challenges, but there are many problems that can only be solved together.”
The proposals in all three reports would have to be agreed by all of the heads of government across Europe to come into force and would be fiercely resisted by some including Britain.
But the votes today do hold political clout and will put pressure on eurocrats to accelerate their commitment to ‘ever-closer union’ even in the face of a surge in support for populist candidates.