European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker tried to diffuse the tension between the EU and the UK after tough meetings in Austria led to fears that no Brexit deal could be reached. Juncker said on Friday that the negotiations for the British exit are beginning to resemble a prickly courtship.
“We have to be careful, like two hedgehogs who love each other,” Juncker said. “When two hedgehogs embrace, they have to watch out that they don’t get scratched.
“We’re not at war with Great Britain,” Juncker told the Austrian daily Die Presse, a day after British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan was largely rejected at an informal EU summit in Salzburg. May’s proposal was seen as unworkable and unacceptable by the bloc’s remaining 27 members.
Juncker cautioned that the situation between Britain and the EU should not be “overdramatized.” Britain “will remain an important partner in trade and security for the EU. But with the British, we’re losing a bit of pragmatism. That is why the exit deeply saddens me,” Juncker said.
Both sides ‘moving closer’
Nevertheless, Juncker said it was “also clear that there can be no leaving the EU while retaining the privileges of the community.”
The European Commission head insisted that the two sides were “moving closer” toward resolving the main sticking point of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Both London and Brussels have pledged to avoid any physical infrastructure, a so-called “hard border,” but beyond that, the two sides have not come to a solution.
On the topic of a new Brexit referendum, Juncker said May had made it clear in Salzburg this option was not on the table. Still, he said the British legislature should get some say in the final result.
“The British Parliament must vote on the exit deal, and the European Parliament, as well. And not everything that London likes is liked by the EU Parliament. One has to look closely for common ground,” Juncker insisted.
The UK and the EU are set to meet again in a formal summit in November, where both sides are hoping to have a final Brexit deal.
jcg/sms (Reuters, AFP)