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‘Time to get serious’ Verhofstadt stokes Brexit tensions with threat over hated EU deal

However, pro- think tank the Bruges Group has swiftly hit back, accusing the bloc of trying to turn into a “colony of its teetering empire”. The MEP and frequent Brexit critic, well-known for his verbal assaults on Nigel Farage in the chamber of the European Parliament, returned to his favourite subject on Saturday with a pointed comment about Brext Minister ’s meeting with the EU’s Maros Sefcovic in Brussels.

The pair discussed the protocol, which the UK Government is deeply unhappy with, arguing it has resulted in a border down the Irish Sea.

However, Mr Sefcovic later spoke to reporters to talk of his “disappointment” at the UK’s refusal to compromise.

Mr Verhofstadt tweeted: “The EU has gone very far (some say too far) to make the NI protocol work… to find nothing coming from the UK side.

“They’re playing with peace and the Good Friday Agreement… High time to get serious!”

As usual, the former Belgian Prime Minister was not without his critics.

Steve Froom posted: “Well according to Lord Trimble one of the authors of the Belfast/GFA, the NIP breaches that agreement.

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“Be honest, the EU is trying to hive off Northern Ireland from the UK. Frankly it’s no better than China’s designs on Taiwan.”

The Bruges Group commented: “The UK is ‘playing with peace’ according to Verhofstadt.

“Nonsense. The EU is trying to render Northern Ireland little more than a colony of its teetering empire.

“It is time to get serious though – by No.10 invoking Article 16.”

Mr Verhofstadt was not without his supporters.

John Wildes said: “The UK Government keeps moving the goalposts. It’s beyond time for the EU to put them in their place.

“The remaining Brexit grace periods end on January 1. They want to trigger Article 16 now so it looks like the EU is to blame when it all goes t**s-up.”

Speaking after his meeting with Lord Frost, Mr Sefcovic said: “Until today, we have seen no move at all from the UK side.

“I find this disappointing and once again I urge the UK government to engage with us sincerely.

“We should focus all efforts on reaching a solution as soon as possible.”

A UK Government spokesman said Lord Frost “underlined that progress had been limited and that the EU’s proposals did not currently deal effectively with the fundamental difficulties in the way the protocol was operating.”

He added: “In the UK view, these gaps could still be bridged through further intensive discussions.”