Nostalgia for a time when Britain was a “powerful” and “global” nation was partly to blame for the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, Michel Barnier has claimed.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said nostalgia “serves no purpose in politics”, as he warned Tory leadership hopefuls that Brussels will not renegotiate Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.
Mr Barnier, who is tipped to replace the outgoing European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, also suggested a hard border on the island of Ireland would lead to a renewal of conflict.
In comments that are likely to enrage Conservative Brexiteers, he told the New York Review Of Books: “Looking at the causes of Brexit, we also find typically British reasons: the hope for a return to a powerful global Britain, nostalgia for the past – nostalgia serves no purpose in politics.
“In my country, too, some politicians still prefer to live in the past.
“But there were, also, people voting for Brexit who simply don’t want to accept rules.
“Some based in the City of London voted to leave, as they don’t want to accept the union’s regulations on their trading; they want to speculate freely and the union doesn’t allow them to do so.
“Finally, and most importantly, there are many people who feel abandoned.
“They feel that the quality of public services, healthcare, transport, is worsening.
“We must listen to these fears and address them.”
Mr Barnier added: “If the UK wants to leave in an orderly manner, this treaty is the only option. This is all that our legal constraints allow.”