Nelson McCausland: The mask slips... EU's negotiator Verhofstadt lets cat out of the bag over European superstate plan
Former Prime Minister of Belgium wants a 'United States of Europe', which is why I voted Leave, says Nelson McCausland
There is always a plethora of Christmas messages from religious and political leaders, with most of the media focus in the United Kingdom on those delivered by the Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Prime Minister and the Pope.
The medium is certainly a factor here, in that Buckingham Palace, Canterbury Cathedral, Downing Street and the Vatican provide impressive backgrounds which fit well with the demands of 24-hour television news.
As a result, most of the messages issued at this time of year receive very little media attention, no matter how important they may be, and a message tweeted out by Guy Verhofstadt MEP on December 23 was almost entirely overlooked.
Verhofstadt was prime minister of Belgium from 1999 to 2008, has been a member of the European Parliament since 2009 and, in September 2016, was named as the European Parliament's co-ordinator on all matters relating to Brexit.
As a fervent advocate of European integration and an opponent of Brexit, he must have relished that appointment. He has certainly taken a particular interest in the land border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and is a staunch defender of the notorious backstop, which is being used by Dublin and Brussels to frustrate Brexit.
However, his recent seasonal tweet made no mention of the backstop. Instead, he tweeted out a photograph of a new building with the words "The future of Europe" emblazoned on a gable wall. With the photograph, he said: "In a world full of uncertainty, the European Union has been, is and will be a rock of stability. European unity now!"
So, thank you, Mr Verhofstadt, for reminding us that your vision for the "future of Europe" is "European unity", a United States of Europe, and that you want it now.
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Of course, Verhofstadt has long been committed to greater EU integration, leading to a federal United States of Europe.
He was a co-founder of the Spinelli Group, which was founded in the European Parliament in Brussels in 2010 and which campaigns for a federal United States of Europe through a network of politicians, think-tanks and academics.
He is also an honorary president of the Union of European Federalists in Belgium and the author of a book titled United States of Europe.
Guy Verhofstadt and many other key figures at the heart of the European Union want to see it evolving into a federal United States of Europe, a European superstate, and they are determined to let nothing stand in their way. That has been and remains my primary reason for being opposed to the European Union.
I do not want to see the United Kingdom absorbed into some European superstate, surrendering all its sovereignty to a United States of Europe. That is why I opposed membership of the European Community in 1975 and why I and many others still oppose membership of the European Union.
On Christmas Day 1939, the Second World War was underway and King George VI closed his radio broadcast with some words from a poem by Minnie Haskins, a Sunday school teacher in a Congregational church in Bristol and later a lecturer at the London School of Economics.
"I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown'. And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.'"
Guy Verhofstadt tried to sell the EU project as a "rock of stability", but Minnie Haskins had a better grasp of the key to stability than Guy Verhofstadt.
Nevertheless, we should be grateful to Verhofstadt for that pre-Christmas tweet. The news in 2018 has been dominated by Brexit and it is almost certain that it will dominate much of the news in 2019.
However, the focus has been and will be very much on the "how" of leaving. That is the way that Remainers like it, because it diverts attention away from the reasons for leaving.
Guy Verhofstadt has certainly reminded us of the "why" of leaving.