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article image"Don't Panic": Britain and EU trade sitcom jibes

By AFP     Jul 18, 2019 in World

Britain is due to leave the EU in 15 weeks with or without an agreement on future ties and officials from both sides are trading insults inspired by a 1970s WWII sitcom.

In a BBC documentary to be screened on Thursday, EU Commission vice president Frans Timmermans recalls British negotiators behaving like characters in "Dad's Army".

The beloved British series features a World War II Home Guard unit of mainly elderly volunteers and their madcap adventures as they await a German invasion that never came.

Timmermans, recalling Brexit talks with British ministers, said: "It's like Lance Corporal Jones, you know? 'Don't panic, don't panic,' running around like idiots."

On Thursday, Britain's junior Brexit minister Martin Callanan was asked about the comments as he arrived in Brussels for talks with other EU governments.

"I think Mr Timmermans needs to stop with the childish insults and if he was such a fan of Dad's Army then he would know the riposte of Captain Mainwaring to such comments: 'stupid boy'," he said.

Captain Mainwaring's "stupid boy" catchphrase was, in fact, aimed at his platoon's youngest member, Private Pike, rather than Jones, but the tone had been set.

British voters chose to leave the European Union in June 2016, but three years later the crisis continues to drag on, with the latest divorce date on October 31.

Outgoing prime minister Theresa May signed a withdrawal agreement with the other 27 EU leaders in November last year, but British lawmakers have refused to ratify it.

May will be replaced next week by the winner of the Conservative Party leadership election, probably former foreign secretary and Brexit campaign leader Boris Johnson.

Johnson has said he will demand the European Union renegotiate the terms of the withdrawal agreement and that he will otherwise leave the union without a deal on October 31.

But EU officials continue to insist that the accord stands.

"I think the position of the European Union is clear," Timmermans said Thursday, without resorting to light entertainment metaphors.

"We have an agreement with the UK and we stick to that agreement and we will wait for the new prime minister and then we will see what the United Kingdom wants," he said.

"But the agreement is the agreement."

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