Hans-Olaf Henkel said Mr Prodi was entirely correct in his assertion that Britain would have blocked the EU’s £677billion coronavirus recovery plan – but unlike the former European Commission President, Mr Henkel believes that would have been a good thing for Europe. Speaking earlier this week, Mr Prodi said: “If Great Britain was part of the EU now, these measures wouldn’t have taken place because they always opposed every push to further solidarity.”

Mr Henkel, who stepped down from the assembly last year, told Express.co.uk he had known Mr Prodi for decades.

He said: “His current analysis, that the new gigantic redistribution of funds within the EU under the disguise of ‘corona’ could never have been possible with Britain being still in the EU is correct.

“In fact, it shows why, under the leadership of France, many southern countries were happy to see Britain leave the EU.

Emmanuel Macron Ursula von der Leyen

Hans-Olaf Henkel says Britain has kept EU spending in check (Image: GETTY)

Romano Prodi

Romano Prodi, former European Commission President and Italian Prime Minister (Image: GETTY)

“It was the EU and Brussels always violating previous EU principles such as self responsibility of a country for its debts, subsidiarity and striving for competitiveness which made Britain leave the EU.

“In reality, it was the EU which left Britain, not Britain leaving the EU.”

Speaking about Mr Prodi specifically, Mr Henkel said: “Before he became Prime Minister of Italy, he was Member of my International Advisory Council when I was chairman of IBM Europe, Middle East and Africa.”

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Hans-Olaf Henkel

Hans-Olaf Henkel is a German former MEP (Image: GETTY)

Once Mr Prodi became Italy’s leader, Mr Henkel had visited him in Rome in his capacity as President of the Federation of German Industries to determine whether Italy was ready for the euro.

He explained: “During that time he effectively managed Italy’s entry into the euro.

“During his term, Italy made significant progress by reducing new debts and keeping Italy’s State debts under control.”

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Ursula von der Leyen Charles Michel

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, with Ursula von der Leyen (Image: GETTY)

Mark Rutte

Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands (Image: GETTY)

The backing of German industry had been instrumental in securing the German government’s agreement for Italy to join the euro, Mr Henkel said, with most experts, together with the German public, not supportive of the idea.

He added: “Unfortunately, all of his successors forgot about the promises he made in order to get Italy into the euro and laid the foundation of the mess of Italy’s finances of today.

“Today, I regard our position regarding Italy (and Greece) to join the euro as a big mistake.

Coronavirus statistics worldwide

Coronavirus statistics worldwide (Image: Express)

“When Romano Prodi became President of the EU, Italy started to go down into her catastrophic financial spiral in which she finds herself today.

“Meanwhile being in Brussels, Prodi started to advocate ‘more solidarity’, ‘more Europe’ but he learned quickly that Britain was in favour of the opposite, ‘self responsibility’ and ‘less Brussels!'”

Speaking yesterday, Mr Prodi also took a swipe at the Netherlands, a member of the so-called Frugal Four, which also comprises Denmark, Sweden and Austria – and suggested the UK would one day return to the fold.

Eurozone

Mr Henkel said Italy should never have been allowed to join the eurozone (Image: GETTY)

He said of the country led by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte: “It was always hiding behind Great Britain and speaking out against European integration, using very well its role as a great trader, but not willing to move forward.

“Now the balance has changed. I’m sorry because Great Britain is a great country, especially in research, and besides, it has the most efficient European army.

“It is a great democracy and a lot of the world looked at Europe through British glasses, but you will see that in 20 years they will return.”

source: express.co.uk

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