Salvini: EU trying to ‘swindle’ UK in Brexit talks

talian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini speaks during a joint statement with Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (both not pictured) after the informal meeting of justice and home affairs ministers in Innsbruck, Austria, 12 July 2018. [Daniel Kopatsch/EPA/EFE]

Italy’s far right deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini has accused the European Union of attempting to “swindle” the United Kingdom out of the Brexit people voted for in the landmark 2016 referendum, The Sunday Times reported on 29 July.

“My experience in the European parliament tells me you either impose yourself or they swindle you”, Salvini told the weekly as he urged prime minister Theresa May to take a harder stance in negotiations to sever ties with the trading bloc.

May and her ministers are scrambling to forge agreements with each of the EU’s 27 member states after a week which saw her already fragile “Chequers plan” for Brexit knocked back by Brussels chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Barnier gives tepid welcome to UK Brexit paper

Michel Barnier downplayed the importance of the UK government’s torturously agreed White Paper on post-Brexit relations on Friday (July 20), insisting that it would not form the basis of Article 50 talks with London.

On Thursday Barnier rejected May’s plan to keep the border between EU member Ireland and the UK province of Northern Ireland open, with a dual system of taxes levied by each side for the benefit of the other.

EU rejects Britain's key elements of special customs plan after Brexit

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier rejected key elements of Britain’s new trade proposals on Thursday (26 July) even as he and his new British counterpart Dominic Raab voiced a shared determination to reach a deal by October.

But League party leader Salvini has urged May to consider taking a hard line, potentially leaving the EU without securing a deal. “Because on some principles there is no need to be flexible and you should not go backwards,” he told The Times.

The paper said he also implied the EU is attempting to punish Britain for seeking to leave, claiming: “There is no objectivity or good faith from the European side.”

“I hope the negotiations end well for the UK to serve as an example of the people coming out on top of the EU,” he added.

“I remember the referendum stage as an example of participation and freedom; I hope it can be an opportunity for the British.”

Barnier has attempted to scupper May’s plan to circumvent Brussels in striking a deal with the member states, insisting that there is not a “sliver of difference” between him and the 27 nation leaders.

But according to The Times Salvini has said he would welcome one-on-one talks with May, undermining Barnier’s authority as the head of talks.

Juncker warns May not to ‘go over Michel Barnier's head’

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made a stern warning to UK Prime Minister Theresa May that she should not attempt to go over the head of the EU’s chief negotiator by opening direct discussions with member state leaders like Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.

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