THE President of the European Council warned yesterday that anti-Brexit British voters who want to remain in the EU must not be ‘betrayed’.
Treating Britain as an unruly province of a new Roman empire, Tusk said many of the millions of people who had signed a petition to revoke Article 50 or who had marched against Brexit at the weekend might feel that they ‘are not sufficiently represented by the UK parliament’.
Arguing for European elections in the UK, he continued it was the duty of the European Parliament to represent people who disagreed with Brexit, ‘because they are Europeans’.
The comments come after EU leaders agreed a UK request for a Brexit delay at a meeting in Brussels last week, and left the door open to an even longer extension and participation in EU elections.
‘Before the European Council, I said we should be open to a long extension if the UK wants to rethink its Brexit strategy, which would of course mean the UK’s participation in the European Parliament elections,’ Tusk told MEPs in an address in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
‘Then there were voices saying that this would be harmful or inconvenient to some of you: let me be clear, such thinking is unacceptable.
‘You cannot betray the six million people who signed a petition to revoke Article 50, the one million people who marched for a people’s vote, or the increasing majority of people who want to remain in the European Union.
‘They may feel that they are not sufficiently represented by the UK parliament but they must feel that they are represented by you in this chamber because they are Europeans.’
The Council president was heckled by British eurosceptic MEPs when he said British people increasingly favoured staying in the EU, and implied that the EU could make a better job of governing the UK.
Tusk’s colleague Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, added: ‘If I were to compare Great Britain to a sphinx, the sphinx would be an open book by comparison. Let’s see how that book speaks over the next week or so.’
The EU agreed an unconditional Brexit delay until 12 April, moving the deadline back from 29 March by a fortnight.
If the UK gets to 12 April without a deal it will have to decide whether to hold European Parliament elections, which would be in late May. If the UK chooses to participate in these elections it would be able to gain another extension.
Tusk added: ‘As I said after the European Council, the 12 April is a key date in terms of the UK deciding to hold European Parliament elections. 12 April is a new cliff edge date: before that date the UK still has a clear choice between a deal, no-deal, long extension, and revoking Article 50.’
Manfred Weber, the leader of the largest group in the European Parliament and the lead candidate to replace Juncker, however, questioned whether a long extension for the UK and participation in EU elections would be a good idea.
‘Those who are fighting for a second referendum, for staying inside the European Union – we are on their side, we want to have their success, but for the moment we have a situation where Great Britain wants to leave the European Union.
‘Having this in mind, I think it’s also important to explain to our citizens why a country that is leaving the European Union should have a major say in the future of the European Union. That is also one of the questions on the table which we have to answer to our citizens.’