French president Emmanuel Macron has torn into Brexiteers, calling them “anger-mongers backed by fake news” whose “lies and irresponsibility” have thrown the whole of Europe into danger.
In remarks that signalled uncompromising opposition to their demands over the conditions of Britain’s EU departure, Mr Macron urged the rest of Europe to “stand firm, proud and lucid in the face of this manipulation”.
The premier launched his attack as part of a broader plea for reform of the EU, which he said had never been “in so much danger”.
Brexiteers shot back by highlighting recent social unrest in France, saying Mr Macron “should look to his own people first before lecturing Britain”.
Mr Macron’s attack on Eurosceptics came in a 1,600-word comment piece that has been translated into 22 languages and has been published in newspapers in each of the EU’s 28 member countries.
Appearing in The Guardian, the essay said: “Never since the Second World War has Europe been so essential. Yet never has Europe been in such danger. Brexit stands as the symbol of that.”
He suggested Brussels had failed to adequately respond to international crises such as the financial crisis and mass migration, but insisted the answer was not to be found by leaving the bloc.
“The trap lies not in being part of the European Union; the trap is in the lie and the irresponsibility that can destroy it,” Mr Macron said.
“Who told the British people the truth about their post-Brexit future? Who spoke to them about losing access to the EU market? Who mentioned the risks to peace in Ireland of restoring the border? Retreating into nationalism offers nothing; it is rejection without an alternative.
“And this is the trap that threatens the whole of Europe: the anger-mongers, backed by fake news, promise anything and everything.”
He added: “We have to stand firm, proud and lucid, in the face of this manipulation and say first of all what Europe is.”
Mr Macron said the EU had reconciled a continent destroyed by the First and Second World Wars, insisted it helped its members stand up to threats from aggressive major powers and take on “digital giants”.
Signalling his hostility to a Brexit deal that would compromise the EU’s core principles, he said he would “tirelessly ... defend its model”.
Among his proposed “freedom, protection and progress” reforms were a “rethink” of the Schengen area of free movement, the creation of a common border force and a treaty on defence and security.
He said the Brexit impasse “is a lesson for us all” and, invoking language deployed by Brexiteers, insisted: “In this Europe, the peoples will really take back control of their future.”
Former Ukip and Tory MP Douglas Carswell tweeted: “Efforts to organise Europe by top down design are destroying Europe. The fools that preside over Europe are too arrogant to see this. A tragedy.”
Referring to the recent yellow vest protest in France, Leave.EU tweeted: “Perhaps he should look to his own people first before lecturing Britain.”