Brexit: European Union membership is 'still open' for Britain, both EU presidents say

Jean-Claude Juncker says he hopes the UK will listen

Jon Stone
Brussels
@joncstone
Tuesday 16 January 2018 10:09
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European Union membership is 'still open' for Britain says Donald Tusk

Britain could still “change its mind” about Brexit at this late stage and return to be a member of the European Union, the two highest officials in the European Union have said.

Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, European Council president Donald Tusk said that Europeans’ “hearts are still open” to “our British friends” to remain in the bloc.

“If the UK government sticks to its decision to leave, Brexit will become a reality, with all its negative consequences in March next year, unless there is a change of heart among our British friends,” he told MEPs.

Quoting the Brexit Secretary, he added: “Wasn’t it David Davis himself who said ‘if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy’? We here on the continent haven’t had a change of heart – our hearts are still open to you.”

He was immediately backed up by Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission.

“President Tusk also made some comments on Brexit, he said that our door remains open. I hope that will be heard clearly in London,” Mr Juncker added.

Speaking at the same sitting of the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, the body’s Brexit chief, added: “What we will never allow as a parliament is that at the end you can have a better position, a better status outside the European Union, than inside the European Union.

Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt speaks during a plenary session of the European Parliament 

“Inside the European Union will always be the best solution for every European country and European state.”

Commission president Mr Juncker had said last week during a discussion about the EU’s Budget that he believed it was still probable that Britain would leave, and that the bloc’s finances have to be planned accordingly.

Mr Tusk has previously suggested Britain could change its mind, but the public statement from Mr Juncker breaks new ground. The Commission’s line has long been one of getting on with the Brexit process.

On Monday night a leaked draft of the European Council’s instructions to its negotiators obtained by The Independent showed the EU is set to toughen up its conditions on Britain if Brexit goes ahead.

The bloc is set to demand an explicit veto on British trade deals signed with other countries for around two years after Brexit, while EU free movement will be extended until the end of the transition period, with no controls on immigration until 2021.

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