Jean-Claude Juncker tells MEPs the UK will “regret” Brexit

Jean-Claude Juncker tells MEPs the UK will “regret” Brexit

The European Parliament is back in Strasbourg this week, and today MEPs discussed a resolution on the EU negotiating stance on Brexit in advance of next week’s European Council. The resolution will almost certainly pass when it comes to a vote tomorrow as it has the approval of the five key groups in the Parliament’s Brexit steering group.

European Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker told a relatively empty chamber that the UK would regret Brexit, to raucous laughter from eurosceptic MEPs. He proclaimed that EU citizens in the UK would retain their rights after Brexit and called on Theresa May to give the EU “more clarity” on how the UK sees its relationship with the EU. In English, he declared: “It is now time to translate speeches into treaties, to turn commitments into agreements”.  On the Irish border he said: “For us this is not an Irish issue, this is a European Union issue”, to heckles of “It’s a British issue, sir!” from UKIP’s David Coburn.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, began his speech by attacking Juncker over the controversial appointment of his former Chief of Staff, Martin Selmayr, to the role of Secretary-General of the European Commission. He said that despite being a “very dedicated European”, Selmayr had united the whole parliament against him in the way he was appointed. He told Juncker to “sort it out” because it was bad for Europe.

On Brexit he said the UK also had to “sort it out”. Inverting Theresa May’s Mansion House speech, he said the UK couldn’t have the benefits of Norway but the obligations of Canada. He called for an “overall governance structure” so that Britain could have a “deep association partnership” with the EU after Brexit. He ended by saying negotiators were very close on agreeing a way forward on citizens’ rights.

In a later intervention he attacked Liam Fox’s plan to exempt the UK from a US trade war and threatened the UK by linking EU solidarity with Britain over the alleged Russian poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal with UK’s expected support for the EU against Donald Trump’s tariffs.

Nigel Farage said the EU has met its match in Donald Trump and attacked the EU for hypocrisy over tariffs. He said the EU bullies the third world with “neo-colonial” policies and that EU tariffs put prices up for consumers at home.

The EU’s Brexit coordinator Michel Barnier struck a much warmer tone than usual. He constantly referred to the UK as a “great country”, said the UK was “due respect” and called Britain an “ally” of the EU. But he went on to say that the EU needed to protect its own union and said the negotiations were “extraordinarily complex”.