Britain’s departure from the EU is weakening Europe’s position in the world order, according to a leading MEP and former Prime Minister of Belgium.

Addressing the Captains of Industry on the first day of World Travel Market, Guy Verhofstadt also said:  “Individual [country] interests are best protected by super-organisations, like Europe.”

Verhofstadt pointed out that the “domino effect” expected following Britain’s exit had not materialised, but warned there was still a big problem.

“The big fear was that other countries would follow and we’d have Frexit, Grexit etc, but what we’ve seen is actually the opposite. In most countries we’ve seen a rise in public opinion of Europe and European projects.”

And he pointed out that in the most recent elections, instead of right-wing candidates winning, the pro-European candidates had won three to four times more seats than those wanting to leave.

But he said Europe was far from high and dry.

‎Describing Brexit as a “failure” of the EU, Verhofstadt said it demonstrated the need for complete reform of the union.

“The problem is not over. The fact that Brexit happened is a failure. There’s no ‘union’ just a confederation of member states. There’s a need to reform the European Union with a new generation of politicians, a more decisive government of 12-15 people, not a whole commission and far less bureaucratic.”

And he said it was not just a question of trade and the economy‎ but one of internal and external security, of research, education, culture, climate change and migration.

Commenting on the deal currently being negotiated for Britain, Verhofstadt said: “It’s naive and unrealistic to think you can negotiate in detail an agreement, so it’s very important for the UK to have a transition period so there’s minimum disruption.”

He said Theresa May had asked for this to be two years, but said he thought three years was more appropriate.

Travel Weekly coverage of World Travel Market