European Parliament representative Guy Verhofstadt made the stunning revelation to Euronews, insisting that he was actually “the first” Eurosceptic. He explained to a small audience: “I’m not at ease with the direction of the EU either. That’s the reason why I say I’m maybe the first Eurosceptic of Eurosceptics in the EU.
“I think that this EU as it works today, or as it doesn’t work today, will not even survive the 21st century.
“But the solution to the challenges we are facing today is not to go back to the nationalist and populist rhetoric of the 20th century.”
Mr Verhofstadt is one of the highest-profile candidates for the EU’s top job and said he wants to reform the way the bloc is run.
The EU Brexit co-ordinator told Euronews’ Raw Questions programme that he wants to shrink the European Commission and replace it with a “smaller government” — but he also wants to take more decisions at a federal level and defended his vision of a United States of Europe.
Less positive news can be found in the Brexit deadlock on the homefront, where Theresa May hopes to hold a fourth vote on her deal.
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay acknowledged it would be the end of the road for the deal thrashed out with the European Union if the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) is defeated when it is brought to the Commons in June.
Defeat would also deal a heavy blow to the Prime Minister’s already fragile authority and, although the WAB vote would not be a formal confidence motion, Number 10 sources acknowledged its significance “won’t be underestimated”.
The legislation writes the Brexit agreement into law and represents a fresh attempt to secure Parliament’s support for a deal which has already been rejected three times by MPs, including the heaviest defeat ever suffered by a Government.
Mr Barclay said the WAB would be published as soon as possible and would have its second reading in the Commons, the first legislative hurdle it would have to clear, in the week beginning June 3.
He told the Lords EU Committee: “I think if the House of Commons does not approve the WAB then the (Michel) Barnier deal is dead in that form.”
Number 10 said efforts were continuing to find a “sustainable” majority for the deal, with discussions involving DUP and Labour MPs.
Asked whether the vote would be considered a “confidence” vote for the Prime Minister, a source said: “That’s not the world that we are currently in but clearly the significance of this piece of legislation can’t and I suspect won’t be underestimated.”
The Prime Minister has already said she will step down once the first phase of the Brexit process is completed and will meet senior Tories on the executive of the backbench 1922 Committee to discuss her future on Thursday.