French president Emmanuel Macron has torn into Brexiteers, calling them ‘anger-mongers backed by fake news’ whose ‘lies and irresponsibility’ have thrown the whole of Europe into danger.
In a sign that Europe was not preparing to back down on demands from the UK, Macron urged the rest of Europe to ‘stand firm, proud and lucid in the face of this manipulation’.
The president launched his attack as part of a broader plea for reform of the EU, which he said had never been ‘in so much danger’.
Macron’s attack on Brexiteers came in a 1,600-word comment piece that has been translated into 22 languages and has been published in newspapers in each of the EU’s 28 member countries.
Appearing in the Guardian, the essay said: ‘Never since the second world war has Europe been so essential. Yet never has Europe been in such danger. Brexit stands as the symbol of that.’
He suggested that Brussels had failed to adequately respond to international crises such as the financial crisis and mass migration, but insisted the answer was not to be found by leaving the bloc.
‘The trap lies not in being part of the European Union; the trap is in the lie and the irresponsibility that can destroy it,’ Mr Macron said.
‘Who told the British people the truth about their post-Brexit future? Who spoke to them about losing access to the EU market? Who mentioned the risks to peace in Ireland of restoring the border? Retreating into nationalism offers nothing; it is rejection without an alternative.
‘And this is the trap that threatens the whole of Europe: the anger-mongers, backed by fake news, promise anything and everything.’
He added: ‘We have to stand firm, proud and lucid, in the face of this manipulation and say first of all what Europe is.’
Macron said the EU had reconciled a continent destroyed by the First and Second World Wars, insisted it helped its members stand up to threats from aggressive major powers and take on ‘digital giants’.
Signalling his hostility to a Brexit deal that would compromise the EU’s core principles, he said he would ‘tirelessly…defend its model’.
Among his proposed ‘freedom, protection and progress’ reforms were a ‘rethink’ of the Schengen area of free movement, the creation of a common border force and a treaty on defence and security.
He said the Brexit impasse ‘is a lesson for us all’ and, invoking language deployed by Brexiteers, insisted: ‘In this Europe, the peoples will really take back control of their future.’
David Miliband, former foreign secretary and a leading supporter of People’s Vote, said: ‘Emmanuel Macron has demolished the false choice between withdrawal from Europe and a standstill Europe.
‘He says Europe should learn the lessons of Brexit, but also the lessons from the isolationism of President Trump’s America and the dangers posed by President Putin’s Russia.
‘His article is a challenge to Europe’s leaders but also to those in Britain. As parliament considers its final choices on Brexit, the truth is increasingly clear that the Brexit people were promised in 2016 is not on offer. It cannot be undemocratic to give the people the final say on whether to go ahead with Brexit.’
Brexiteer Douglas Carswell, a former UKIP and Tory MP, tweeted: ‘Efforts to organise Europe by top down design are destroying Europe. The fools that preside over Europe are too arrogant to see this. A tragedy.’
Referring to the recent yellow vest protest in France, Leave.EU tweeted: ‘Perhaps he should look to his own people first before lecturing Britain.’