STRASBOURG (Reuters) - Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have shown a lack of patriotism in quitting ahead of the negotiations for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union which they fought for, EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday.
“Yesterday’s shining heroes of Brexit have become the sorrowful heroes of today,” the European Commission president told the European Parliament as he condemned what he said was a lack of planning in London following last month’s referendum.
“They are retro-nationalists, not patriots. Patriots don’t abandon ship when the going gets tough. They stay on board.”
Juncker insisted the EU will not negotiate any terms for the British departure until a new premier formally triggers the withdrawal process and the two-year deadline it sets for a deal.
“I would have thought that they would have had a plan,” he said. “Instead of developing a plan they are leaving the boat.”
Former London mayor Johnson shocked his Conservative party by abandoning a leadership bid that many expected him to make to become prime minister. Farage, am European Parliament member whose seat in the Strasbourg chamber was empty on Tuesday, resigned on Monday as leader of the UK Independence Party.
Speaking for UKIP during the debate, Paul Nuttall, a potential successor to Farage, told Juncker, “I‘m not here to gloat”, and said that Brussels and London must now cooperate to ensure the best deal for Britain and the rest of the Union.
“Threats and bullying are not the answer to the questions the UK leaving the European Union has thrown up,” he said.
Reporting by Alastair Macdonald in BrusselS Editing by Jeremy Gaunt