The EU Commission’s first Vice President Frans Timmermans has delivered a scathing assessment of the UK’s negotiating team, comparing former Brexit Secretary David Davis to bumbling Dad’s Army character Lance Corporal Jones.
Speaking to the BBC’s Panorama programme, set to be aired tonight, the top EU boss said he had expected a “Harry Potter-like book of tricks” from ministers, but was left “shocked” by their approach.
He said: “We thought they are so brilliant. That in a vault somewhere in Westminster there will be a Harry Potter-like book with all the tricks and all the things in it to do.”
But he changed his mind after meeting David Davis.
“I saw him not coming [to Brussels], not negotiating, grandstanding elsewhere and I thought, ‘oh my God, they haven’t got a plan, they haven’t got a plan,” he said.
Mr Timmermans added: “That was really shocking frankly because the damage if you don’t have a plan – you know, we see it – time’s running out and you don’t have a plan, it’s like Lance Corporal Jones, you know, ‘Don’t panic, don’t panic!’ Running around like idiots.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Mr Timmermans accused Tory leadership favourite Boris Johnson of “playing games” during the Brexit negotiations.
“It’s about time we became a bit harsh, because I am not sure he was being genuine,” Mr Timmermans said.
“I always had the impression he was playing games.”
Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have vowed to renegotiate a fresh agreement with Brussels ahead of the 31 deadline if they become Prime Minister.
Johnson said he will immediately launch a major drive to prepare the country for a no-deal Brexit, and refused to rule out suspending Parliament in order to force through EU withdrawal without an agreement at the final Tory leadership hustings.