German president attacks ‘irresponsible’ Brexit campaign | Politics


Germany’s president has launched a scathing attack on the politicians leading the UK out of the European Union, quoting the former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine’s warning that Britain is facing its greatest ever loss of sovereignty.

In an outspoken speech to the European parliament, his first as president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier told MEPs that the Brexiters would be unable to deliver on their promise to “take back control”.

“It is wrong to say, in my conviction, that in this world a single European country standing alone and without the EU can make its voice heard or assert its economic interests. Quite to the contrary,” the former German foreign secretary told MEPs in Strasbourg.

“If we, as Europe, don’t become fully fledged partners on the world stage we will all individually become the plaything of other powers and I suspect that is what Michael Heseltine, a Briton of all people, was thinking when he recently said in an interview that Brexit was the biggest loss of sovereignty he can recollect, and he may be right.”

Lord Heseltine was sacked as a government adviser last month by Theresa May for defying the whip by voting in favour of parliament having a veto over the outcome of the prime minister’s Brexit talks with Brussels.

In a full-frontal attack on the leading lights of the Vote Leave campaign, which included the foreign secretary Boris Johnson and the Brexit secretary David Davis, Steinmeier said the promises the campaigners had made for Brexit would come to nothing.

He said: “Populists paint the world black and white and turn fears into political capital … Take back control is a strong slogan that we hear everywhere. Nationalists are unable to deliver it and if it can be…

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