The former chancellor of the exchequer has criticised the Brexit negotiations saying Theresa May wasn’t even in the room for the biggest decision of the week.
Talking to Sky News, George Osborne, now editor of the London Evening Standard, said Brexit had been “enormously damaging”.
He said: “The promises made that we would take back control have been exposed as hollow, because the big decisions have been in Brussels in a meeting where the prime minister wasn’t even invited.”
He was referencing Wednesday’s emergency summit where the remaining 27 EU leaders opted to allow a six month extension to the Article 50 date, taking the UK’s new leaving date to 31 October.
Mrs May made her statement and then left the room, having dinner with aids. She was a guest of the summit.
Mr Osborne added: “It is sensible that there is a delay, and people are thinking through what we really want to do as a country.
“What we have seen is that what was promised cannot be delivered.”
On the question of a second referendum, Mr Osborne suggested it was best to work out whether the cross-party talks would bring a model of a “softer Brexit”, though he said “I’m not optimistic”.
He said: “There will be a test with the people because we have got the European elections looming. There will be an electoral contest of the handling of this and the future.”
Cross-party talks continued on Friday after a brief suspension during the week and included Michael Gove who said they would be “open and constructive”.
The environment secretary said the government was committed to delivering on the referendum result and said the Labour party had to remember during talks that they had stood on a manifesto also promising the same.
He took part in the talks alongside David Lidington, the effective deputy prime minister, and shadow chancellor John McDonnell attended for Labour.
Mrs May met briefly with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition.
Mr Osborne said businesses wanted certainty, but that there was unlikely to be any anytime soon – even suggesting there could be a longer delay.
But in a defence of politicians he said their indecision was not because they were “stupid” or “uniquely incompetent” but a reflection on the indecision across the UK.
He said: “We as a country are divided. We want all the benefits of the EU but some of us, those who voted Brexit, wanted to save on the costs.
“We have got to settle the way forward ourselves.”
The former chancellor spoke to Sky News ahead of the final series of Game of Thrones, and likened the battle in the series to Westminster.
He said: “It reminds us that competition for power has always been with us. If a throne is potentially vacant, people will be jostling for it.”
Mr McDonnell said talks were “positive” on Friday.
He said: “Talks are going on, constructive, so we’re hopeful, positive. But we’ll see by the end of next week how far we’ve got.”