The Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has shot down numerous hopes for changing the UK’s negotiating position with the EU, and said that even a soft Brexit will ‘diminish’ the UK.
“I hate Brexit from every angle, I hate a no deal Brexit from every angle, but it’s not up to me”, he told the BBC’s Today programme, admitting that it will be damaging for several countries including his own – but none so much as the UK.
“With a hard Brexit, even with a normal Brexit, the UK will be a different country,” he said. “It will be a diminished country. It is unavoidable.”
As a member of NATO and the security council, the UK is big enough to be a regional player, said the Dutch premier, but he quashed Brexiteers’ romantic notion of a buccaneering “global Britain”.
The self-confessed anglophile pointed out that there is no way the UK, with 65 million people, can arrange a better trade deal with a country like Japan than the EU can for its 500 million consumers.
The notion of an EU superstate, with an army and its directives stamped all over all aspects of life, has all but disappeared, he said, adding that the union has long moved in the direction David Cameron had wanted it to anyway.
Discussing the impasse between the October 31 deadline and parliament’s refusal to pass Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, he quashed nearly all other negotiating approaches that have become talking points of the Tory leadership contenders.
Paraphrasing Churchill, said he hoped that the candidates’ loosely-sketched plans for succeeding where May failed were an example of campaigning being “done in poetry, and governing is in prose”, he said, paraphrasing Churchill.
In this he echoed the recent words of numerous European leaders, who have said repeatedly there is to be no renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement.
READ: No, really. You can’t renegotiate May’s Brexit deal, EU leaders tell Tory hopefulsThey could only consider an extension to Article 50 if the new prime minister indicated some change to the UK’s red lines or the Irish border, he said.
What could be looked at is the 26-page Political Declaration of a future relationship, which sits “below” the Withdrawal Agreement – but again only if the UK has another plan for the Irish border.
“The backstop is not a punishment for the UK,” he said. “It’s the only logical result given the UK’s red lines.”
In the end, he says, he’s “stopped dreaming” about an end to Brexit chaos.
There is no prospect of a transition period in the case of a hard Brexit, he said.
“As Boris Johnson would say, Brexit is Brexit. I would say a hard Brexit is a hard Brexit,” he said. “I don’t see how you can sweeten it.”