How does Brexit benefit Putin

Verhofstadt: "Brexit only benefits Putin"

Deutsche Welle: Mr. Verhofstadt, you are one of only three negotiators in the European Parliament who are dealing with “Brexit”, ie the reforms and the special position of Great Britain. You are therefore very familiar with all the problems, all suggestions and opinions. Will there be an agreement by Friday?

Guy Verhofstadt: I think there will be an agreement by Friday. I hope for a deal because we have to avoid a “Brexit”. A UK exit from the EU would be devastating because it would only benefit one person, Vladimir Putin. He wants a divided Europe, a weak Europe. And the EU without Great Britain would be a weak Europe.

Let's assume there is an agreement and you are right: do you fear that this could set a precedent for other member states that also want a special position? Could an agreement be the end of the EU as we know it?

No, I think the opposite. This is the chance to finally give the UK a special status after having been debated for over three decades. We must finally solve this problem and get it over with. This is the only way we can break the deadlock in Europe. Then we can work on the further integration of the European Union and solve problems such as the refugee crisis, the security crisis and Europe's weak geopolitical role. I see this as an opportunity for both the UK and the EU.

Not all parliamentarians seem as convinced as you are. Should a solution be found at the EU summit, would Parliament approve the agreement?

There will be a big debate in the European Parliament. But we have promised to be open and constructive. Clearly we cannot say how Parliament will decide. It would not be very democratic to say now that Parliament will vote 100%. But British Prime Minister David Cameron does not know whether he will win the referendum in Great Britain either. That's democracy. We have to convince people first. But we promised to approach the matter openly and constructively.

Guy Verhofstadt is chairman of the Liberal Group in the European Parliament. From 1999 to 2008 Verhofstadt was Prime Minister of Belgium.