The French nationalist accused the Brussels bloc of turning the UK into a scapegoat in an effort to dissuade other member states from following in its footsteps. “The European Union clearly has an organisational problem. It is prison-like … and never imagined that a country could want to leave for a reason or another,” Mr Chenu told France Info radio when asked to comment on the ongoing Brexit drama. The far-right lawmaker warned Brussels against adding fuel to the Brexit fire: “The British people’s political decision is clear: they want to leave and they will leave. Can we respect their choice and stop thinking we need to make them pay the highest price possible for this divorce?”
Mr Chenu also slammed Brussels’ refusal to renegotiate the deal and reluctance to accept a Brexit delay as “irresponsible”.
European leaders “want to show countries mulling over the possibility of their own EU exit that leaving the bloc is very difficult. They want to put countries off the idea… Stirring up all this drama, panicking populations and putting so much pressure on the UK is quite irresponsible.”
An extension to the Brexit deadline is in Europe’s interest, he continued: “Things need to go well because in that case we will all be winners.”
Parliament on Wednesday rejected leaving the EU without a deal, further weakening Prime Minister Theresa May.
MPs voted 321 to 278 in favour of a motion that ruled out a potentially chaotic “no-deal” exit under any circumstances. They are expected to vote on Thursday on seeking a last-minute Brexit delay.
While Britain is likely to get the bloc’s approval for a delay if it asks for one, Brussels has repeatedly stressed it will need to provide a good reason for doing so.
But Mrs May, who stressed in the wake of the vote that a no-deal Brexit was still on the table, said lawmakers would need to agree a way forward before an extension could be obtained from Brussels.
The government said there were now two choices – lawmakers can either agree a deal and try to secure a short delay to Brexit, or fail to agree anything and face a much longer delay.
Mrs May said she would prefer a short delay, which would mean the government trying to pass the deal she negotiated with the EU by the middle of next week.
But some in Brussels are pushing for a much longer delay, it emerged on Thursday.
“I will appeal to the EU27 to be open to a long extension if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus around it,” European Council President Donald Tusk said on Twitter.
A senior EU official told Reuters Mr Tusk believed Britain would need at least another year and possibly longer to agree on a divorce deal if Mrs May’s third attempt to get her EU withdrawal agreement through parliament next week also fails.
He believes a short delay would be useless and is allegedly urging EU leaders to give Britain more time.
Such an extension, however, would require Britain to elect members of the European Parliament when all member states hold votes on May 23-26, further complicating matters.
It would also require unanimous support among the 27 other member states, whose members remain at odds over the issue.
Replying to Mr Tusk’s tweet, Guy Verhofstadt, the liberal leader and Brexit coordinator in the EU parliament, called for the UK to leave the bloc as soon as possible unless its lawmakers can agree on a clear exit strategy.
“Under no circumstances an extension in the dark! Unless there is a clear majority in the House of Commons for something precise, there is no reason at all for the European Council to agree on a prolongation,” he tweeted.