Guy Verhofstadt has sought to reopen old wounds – by telling Express.co.uk the war in Ukraine makes Britain’s return to the European Union inevitable. The former Belgium Prime Minister – now an MEP – has been a vocal critic of Britain’s decision to quit the bloc ever since the 2016 referendum.
He has rarely turned down an opportunity to voice his opinion on the matter, frequently clashing with former UKIP and Brexit Party MEP Nigel Farage in the European Parliament in Brussels.
Express.co.uk caught up with him during the National Rejoin March from Park Lane to Parliament Square, which saw an estimated 15,000 people gather in central London yesterday.
Mr Verhofstadt, who famously ranted against Brexit during an appearance at the Liberal Democrats’ conference in 2019, confidently predicted: “The UK will rejoin the EU.”
He added: “It’s better for the UK to be in the single market. I will see the return of the UK to the European Union.”
Referring to Vladimir Putin’s invasion on February 24, he added: “Since the start of the war in Ukraine there’s a new world order.
“A new world order needs a strong European Union with Britain.
“With the war in Ukraine everybody feels that a strong Europe with the UK is essential.”
Nevertheless, rejoining will depend on the will of the British people to do so, Mr Verhofstadt acknowledged.
The 69-year-old returned to the subject when he took to the stage at a rally in Parliament Square Garden at the end of the march, later tweeting a link to his speech.
In it, he said: “I want to see in my life, the return of UK in European Union and why?
“Because, in fact, Brexit has been a disaster for the UK and a disaster for Europe as such also.”
He declared: “We are weaker today than before Brexit, also Europe.
“Everything that is happening with Russia in Ukraine is, in fact, an argument for a strong European Union with you.”
Referencing the UK’s current political turmoil, Mr Verhofstadt said: “When we did the march up from Trafalgar Square to here and we went to nearby Downing Street and I said, there is no body in Downing Street today.”
Pointing to Ivor Roberts-Jones’ sculpture of the UK’s wartime leader, he added: “When I came here on this square, I was looking to that statue behind you and you have a man who is then the greatest British politician that you ever got and he was a liberal conservative, a little bit of both.
“One thing he would never, Winston Churchill, have done is what the Conservatives are doing now in this country, and I’m pretty sure if he was still alive, if that statue could move, the first thing he will do was to bring Britain back in the European family.
“He was the biggest European politician we ever got because he got the vision to say, after the Second World War, that a united Europe is the only way to govern this continent.”
The rally involved placard-waving supporters with EU flags chanting ”Tories out. Crowds booed when speakers discussed the prospect of Boris Johnson potentially running to return as Prime Minister.
There were more boos as a large digital screen overlooking Parliament Square Garden showed pictures of Leave-voting figures including Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and Nigel Farage.
In 2016, a nationwide referendum saw Britain vote to leave the bloc by 52 to 48 percent – but the debate has continued to rage ever since.