Brexit continues to breed tension between the UK and EU as Minister David Frost warns that the Northern Ireland Protocol is unsustainable in its current form. UK and EU officials are engaged in intensive technical talks aimed at simplifying the operation of the protocol. It has been a hugely controversial issue since the beginning of the Brexit process. Ill feeling has also been seen surrounding fisheries in recent months, as France clashes with Jersey over access to waters.
The hostility began way back in 2016, however, shortly after the UK voted to the leave the EU in the historic referendum.
In September that year, Slovakia’s then-Prime Minister Robert Fico claimed Europe will make sure leaving the EU is “very painful” for the UK.
He added that Britain would not be allowed to make EU workers “second-class citizens” while still receiving the benefits of the single market.
Mr Fico told the Financial Times: “It will be very difficult for the UK, very difficult.
“The EU will take this opportunity to show the public, ‘Listen guys, now you will see why it is important to stay in the EU’. This will be the position.”
Mr Fico stressed he had personal “respect” for then-Prime Minister Theresa May but said he did not envy her dilemma.
He added: “What would you say if you were in their position? Even if it is the fifth-biggest economy in the world — I understand their financial importance — this will still be very painful for the UK.
“They are bluffing. If you were in their position you would say the same. ‘It will all be fine, it will be fantastic, you will see’.
“No, no, no, no.”
Mr Fico wasn’t the only figure in Europe to take a tough stance towards Brexit.
Former Swedish Foreign Minister and former European Commission Vice President – Margot Wallström – said in June 2019 that she could “never forgive” the UK for Brexit.
She said Britain’s approach to the issue was “dangerous” and “badly handled”, adding: “I just think that they’ve made such a historical mistake and they’ve really created a problem for all of us.
“I cannot forgive them for this.
“Our political project, the European Union, will suffer from this immensely and that has to be fully understood.”
Ms Wallstrom, a social democrat, accused the UK of taking its position in the bloc for granted, and questioned the decision to even hold a referendum on EU membership.
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She continued: “You know what? This is because of bad political leadership for a very long time in the UK. I saw with all my years from the European Commission there was nobody who would defend their EU membership.
“You should not promise referenda if you don’t prepare them properly.”
In 2017, French lawmakers also hit out at Brexit as a report suggested the UK must not have privileged access to EU markets.
The French senate vowed that the UK must not be allowed to leave the EU in a better-off position than it was as a member state, and if necessary a withdrawal without an agreement had to be considered.
It also described a speech by Mrs May as “mixture of veiled threats and pledges of goodwill”.
The report admitted the UK economy had weathered the early Brexit storm, but said weaknesses would be exposed.
The French lawmakers said rising household debt, a weakening of the commercial real estate market, the current account deficit and the devaluation of sterling could impact the UK.