Even the football was not immune from Brexit wrangling in the build up to England’s crushing defeat to Italy on penalties. European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, backed Italy to win Euro 2020 last week in an apparent swipe at Brexit Britain. Reporters were told that Ms Von der Leyen’s “heart is with the Squadra Azzurra so she will be supporting Italy on Sunday.”
The European Commission generally stays neutral in sporting competitions between member states – but Brexit made the EU President’s allegiance in the final all but inevitable.
Italy is a country that analysts often describe as slightly more eurosceptic than other member states, but the country’s economics minister fumed on Mr Johnson in 2016 for his “insulting” comments.
Carlo Calenda hit out at Mr Johnson for saying that Italy would grant Britain access to the EU’s single market “because you don’t want to lose prosecco exports”.
Mr Calenda added: “He basically said: ‘I don’t want free movement of people but I want the single market.’
“I said: ‘No way.’ He said: ‘You’ll sell less prosecco.’
“I said: ‘OK, you’ll sell less fish and chips, but I’ll sell less prosecco to one country and you’ll sell less to 27 countries.’ Putting things on this level is a bit insulting.”
Mr Calenda derided Mr Johnson’s claim that the UK would be able to remain in the single market – the UK has left the single market as a result of Brexit.
The Italian minister added: “Somebody needs to tell us something, and it needs to be something that makes sense.
“You can’t say that it’s sensible to say we want access to the single market but no free circulation of people. It’s obvious that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
“There’s lots of chaos and we don’t understand what the position is. It’s all becoming an internal UK debate, which is not OK. The British government needs to sit down, put its cards on the table and negotiate.”
Dutch finance minister at the time, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, also criticised Mr Johnson’s comments, saying that his Brexit plan is unachievable.
He said: “I think he’s offering to the British people options that are really not available. For example, to say we could be inside the internal market but be outside the customs union, this is impossible, it just doesn’t exist.
“The opposite does exist. We have a customs union with Turkey but Turkey is not part of the internal market.
“He’s saying things that are intellectually impossible, politically unavailable, so I think he’s not offering the British people a fair view of what is available and what can be achieved in these negotiations.”
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Mr Dijsselbloem also said Brexit is a “lose-lose” situation, warning that the UK’s best option would be to remain in the bloc.
In response, Michael Gove, a leading Brexit campaigner, pressed for the UK to achieve a “quickie divorce” with the EU regardless of the economic consequences, as he raised concerns that civil servants were overcomplicating the process.
He said: “Can we simplify? What if I were to determine to simply leave the EU, to trigger article 50 and to conclude the bare minimum in order to leave? What would article 50 actually require me to agree?
“For the purposes of this question, I am not worried about transitional arrangements, I am prepared to take the economic hit or to secure the economic benefits of not being inside the single market and being outside the customs union.
“I simply want the divorce on the quickest possible terms. What do I need in that quickie divorce?”