European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas wasted no time in launching a scathing attack on Britain, as relations between the European Union and UK threaten to descend into chaos ahead of the start of crunch post-Brexit trade talks next month. The deputy to Ursula von der Leyen made the criticisms while speaking on the eve of the Munich Security Conference, which takes place in the German city from February 14-16. He was speaking alongside Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party group in the European Parliament, and and Richard Grenell, US President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Germany.
But Mr Schinas, whose portfolio is “promoting our European way of life”, claimed the EU’s defence and security cooperation would accelerate thanks to Brexit.
He accused Britain of not wanting Europe to “spend on defence” and blocked “systematically every effort of the European Union to do something meaningful”.
Mr Schinas said: “There were always those who wanted Europe to do a lot, and those who wanted Europe to do nothing at all or less.
“Those who wanted Europe to do nothing at all, or less, in defence are no longer with us. They left us end of January.
“Because these are the ones who didn’t want Europe to spend on defence.
“These were the ones who were blocking systematically every effort of the European Union to do something meaningful.”
The latest criticisms of thew UK towards the European project comes as somewhat of surprise – Britain contributed £15.5billion (11.88 percent) of the EU budget win 2018, behind only France and Germany.
But Mr Weber struck a different note to the European Commission Vice President, and chose to instead highlight the EU’s shortcomings, particularly in defence and security.
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He said: “I think we would like to see a faster Europe. We love the idea of a unified Europe.
“But what we really need is a Europe that’s innately with the West, that doesn’t take nine days to think about which side they are on in Venezuela, but that immediately looks at the situation and says, ‘Iran is a terrorist regime.’”
Leading voices are set to take to the stage during the Munich Security Conference, with French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attending the event for the first time.
Germany President Walter Steinmeier is set to open the conference this morning, with more than 35 heads of state or Government, as well as over 100 foreign and defence ministers expected to attend.
According to the conference’s website: “The MSC 2020 will seek answers and solutions to this fundamental question by examining the European project, defence cooperation, and the liberal international order as a whole.
“But far from Western navel-gazing, decision-makers and experts from across the globe will discuss hotspots from Libya to the Persian Gulf and further to East Asia.
“Pressing global challenges will be a focal point, above all the effects of climate change, but also the intersections of trade and technological progress with international security.”