EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier
Jiri Payne told express.co.uk in an interview that the Frenchman is not “negotiating to reach with an agreement” and that EU member states are trying to “punish” Britain.
The eurosceptic, a libertarian politician and nuclear physicist, said his country needs a good trade deal with the UK and faces 20,000 job losses in the event of a no deal Brexit.
Mr Payne, who was a top advisor to the last Czech president Václav Klaus before becoming an MEP this year, also warned eurocrats that if they do not change course they will face more exit votes.
In an interview with this website he said the EU’s phased negotiating approach, whereby citizens’ rights, the Brexit bill and Ireland must be solved before trade talks, is a wrecking tactic.
Czech MEP Jiri Payne
He said: “To start with the most difficult issues is a bad strategy. Any negotiator who wants to reach an agreement starts with the simple issues and goes step by step to the more complicated ones.
“The strategy we are viewing goes the opposite way. That’s why I am convinced the Commission does not want to reach any agreement, just to show every exit will be punished.
“Many politicians are afraid of other exits. The first primitive emotion is to punish, revenge. But it seems the Commission must be very helpless to deal with Brexit like that.”
He was especially scathing of the bloc’s chief negotiator, concluding: “The pragmatic solution would be to immediately replace Mr Barnier with a much more generous negotiator.”
The Frenchman’s hands are tightly tied by the mandate he was given by the 27 EU member states earlier this year, although some of his rhetoric on Brexit has antagonised the British side.
And Mr Payne said the EU elite’s natural reflex to “punish” Britain for leaving the bloc will backfire, saying he had seem a similar sentiment when Czechoslovakia split in two 20 years ago.
He said: “I remember that feeling exactly from our story of the division of Czechoslovakia. I was at that time the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
“The second attitude was we want to have good relations 20 years later, so we need much more patience and generosity. And today it is clear both in the Czech Republic as well as in Slovakia – that was a right decision.”
Many politicians are afraid of other exits
Mr Payne said reaching a good trade agreement with the UK is a “routine job” and said it “must be the interest of the Commission to reach it” given the fact the EU exports more to Britain than vice-versa.
He warned: “EU is closing the Single Market more and more to itself. For the UK it will be easier to accommodate its economy from Single Market to free markets.
“I do not understand the strategy. Two months before next elections to the European Parliament, to present to voters a completely non-successful negotiation?
“It will influence the decision of voters. Thus it will harm not only economic, but political interests as well.”
The Czech MEP said the EU’s demands that Britain pay a huge Brexit bill of £50 billion or more are not reasonable and said two years is “enough time” to change the bloc’s budget to reflect the UK’s departure.
He questioned: “In the case, lets say the Czech Republic would leave the EU, will the EU pay all contributions and subsidies promised to Czech Republic by the common budget even if it will be not a member? Certainly not.”
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Mr Payne also warned the EU that his homeland, which recently elected a new eurosceptic leader in the form of billionaire businessman populist Andrej Babis, could be the next to quit the bloc.
He called on European nations to consider a new form of cooperation to replace the existing European structure, which he branded undemocratic and incapable of reforming itself.
The Czech MEP said the direction the bloc is heading in under Emmanuel Macron, with further federalisation and centralisation of power in Brussels will make it “much less democratic” still.
He said: “In the present time the Czech Republic is the most Eurosceptic nation in the EU, even more than the Brits. Something must happen. And to have another five or 10 exits could be extremely complicated.
“And to invent any scenario how to make EU more democratic is impossible. For decades politicians have declared the necessity to reform the institutions of the EU, but no one is capable to draft any such reform. Theoretically it is not possible.
“The only way is to replace the EU with some other concept of cooperation. It means to replace the Lisbon Treaty by some other system. I wish to start discussion on other alternatives how to cooperate among European countries without the EU.”