May 23, 2019 / 1:42 PM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-EU's Verhofstadt says Brexit is a "tragedy for Europe", but unified it

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BUDAPEST, May 23 (Reuters) - European Union liberal lawmaker Guy Verhofstadt said on Thursday that Britain’s vote to leave the bloc was a “tragedy for Europe” but had the effect that nobody else on the continent wanted to see their country leave.

“Brexit is in fact a tragedy for Europe,” Verhofstadt, a former liberal prime minister of Belgium and the European parliament’ main liaison on Brexit, told a news conference in the Hungarian capital. “When a big country like the UK is leaving the EU its difficult to say it’s fantastic.”

“But since Brexit in most countries people don’t want an exit of their country. Nobody wants any more a Nexit, the Dutch going out, or Frexit, the French going out.... what we see since Brexit is that the European idea is more popular than ever.”

He added he saw “a lot of irony” that a country that wants to leave in the end has to organise European elections.

“But I’m quite confident that the outcome of these elections in Britain will see an enormous support for the pro-European parties.”

He expressed confidence that his liberal alliance ALDE, together with French President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche, will form a strong centrist group that will become kingmakers as the Socialists and the Conservatives in the EP will fail to reach a majority for the first time since European elections were first held in 1979. (Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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