Charles Michel’s tough stance signals difficulties ahead for Britain as it negotiates trade deal. Britain’s vote to leave the EU has opened a political “black hole” in Westminster and Europe’s leaders will not bend to help it out, Belgium’s prime minister has warned.
Charles Michel’s caustic views on the unreal “dreams” of Brexiters, outlined in an hour-long interview with the Financial Times, speak to the difficulties Britain faces in reaching an exit trade deal that satisfies all 27 EU leaders and their parliaments.
Before the referendum, the liberal leader doggedly resisted giving Britain a special deal on its EU membership terms. He is now showing similar resolve over any Brexit deal, pushing the UK to start the divorce promptly and telling it to expect no big concessions on migration or market access.
“The truth is it’s a very negative situation for the UK, there is no doubt,” he said. “I regret this situation … even with a friend like the UK, I will not accept having to pay the bill. That’s not my intention. Now there is a new relationship.”
Sworn in two years ago with a mission to hold his country together amid a surge in Flemish nationalism, Mr Michel has guided Belgium through the trauma of terrorist attacks and faced a backlash from unions for his attempts to reform the country’s stubbornly rigid economy.
Brexit is the latest crisis on his to-do list, threatening a cherished EU project Belgium sees as integral to its economy and political future. Like many European leaders, Mr Michel is scathing about the turmoil in British politics since the vote.