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EU on the brink: Brexit clears way for 'United States of Europe', warns expert

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And Hans-Olaf Henkel fears without Britain keep tabs on the situation, spending will spiral out of control, citing the “crazy” coronavirus recovery plan as a example. The bloc yesterday unveiled its 1.1 trillion euro budget, plus a 750 billion euro plan to prop up economies hit by the coronavirus pandemic – which includes 500 billion in grants, mostly to Spain and Italy, the hardest-hit countries.

Mr Henkel, who stood down from the European Parliament last year, is a long-standing critic of many aspects of how the EU operates, and has lamented Brexit on numerous occasions.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, he stressed his reasons went far beyond the sentimental.

He explained: “UK was always critical when Brussels wanted EU-taxes, increased budgets, Government spending.

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Guy Verhofstadt

Guy Verhofstadt has popularised the term “United States of Europe” (Image: GETTY)

Hans-Olaf Henkel

Hans-Olaf Henkel is a former MEP (Image: GETTY)

“When Brussels wanted more solidarity, London voted for self-responsibility, when Brussels wanted more power, London reminded the EU if its commitment to subsidiarity, when Brussels worked towards equalising the distribution of wealth in the EU, London insisted on competition as a policy making the EU more competitive.”

By contrast, he added: “With Britain out if its way, the Europhiles now have a clear road towards the United States of Europe.”

With respect to the UK’s decision to quit the bloc, Mr Henkel had little doubt who was ultimately responsible.

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Guy Verhofstadt

Guy Verhofstadt has called for a United States of Europe on a number of occasions (Image: Twitter)

Ursula von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission (Image: GETTY)

With Britain gone, Germany has now lost someone to hide behind (Britain) when it didn’t dare herself to oppose French ideas

Hans-Olaf Henkel

He said: “Brexit would never have happened if Brussels had not kept on moving the EU towards an uncompetitive region.

“With Britain gone, Germany has now lost someone to hide behind (Britain) when it didn’t dare herself to oppose French ideas.”

Historically, Britain had played a vital role in “putting the brakes on” EU spending, Mr Henkel said.

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European Parliament

The plenary session at the European Parliament on Thursday (Image: GETTY)

Sebastian Kurz

Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s Chancellor, is not happy with the idea of grants (Image: GETTY)

He added: “Now that Britain left, it is up to the remaining four (The Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland) to oppose crazy ideas such as a 500 billion euro gift because of corona instead of a credit.”

The EU’s blueprint, if ratified by all members of the EU27, would mark a step towards mutualised debt – effectively spreading the costs across the bloc – as a major funding tool for the first time, and would pave the way for greater EU powers of taxation.

The proposal would see the European Commission borrow from the market and then disburse two-thirds of the funds in grants and the rest in loans to cushion the unprecedented slump expected this year caused by the continent-wide coronavirus lockdown.

Mark Rutte Netherlands

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (Image: GETTY)

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “We either all go it alone, leaving countries, regions and people behind and accepting a union of haves and have-nots, or we walk that road together.”

Austria, one of the “frugal four” which have argued against grants, yesterday described the plan as a starting point for negotiations.

However, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said: “There are countries that must pay, like the Netherlands, the Swedes, the Danes and us.

Tourism coronavirus

Spain and Italy top the list of worst-hit countries in terms of the tourism industry impact (Image: Daily Express)

“We therefore, out of responsibility to our taxpayers, say clearly that we are in favour of loans.”

Speaking on Tuesday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the recovery fund “should consist of loans, without any mutualisation of debts”.

Others say grants are needed because Italy, Spain, Greece, France and Portugal already have high debt and rely heavily on tourism, which has been mauled by the crisis.

Guy Verhostadt, who as the European Parliament’s Brexit representative has been a frequent critic of the UK’s decision to quit the bloc, has popularised the phrase United States of Europe, once again using it in a tweet last week.

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