‘I hope UK will rejoin EU one day’ – Juncker

'The day will come when the British re-enter the boat, I hope' - European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he hopes the UK will rejoin the European Union at some point in the future.

“I don’t like Brexit,” he told reporters. “I would like to be in the same boat as the British. The day will come when the British re-enter the boat, I hope.”

A senior aide to Juncker later said that the option of the UK returning to the EU “will always be open”.

“There are different ways you can join,” he said. “You can be a full member, you can be a partner, you can be related to us in the customs union, or through a trade agreement.”

Juncker argued that a Brexit would not mark the beginning of the end for the EU.

“Brexit is not the end of the EU, not the end of all our developments, nor the end of our continental ambitions,” he said. “I had the impression from colleagues I talked to in the room, that quite the contrary, the Brexit issue is encouraging the others to continue. Unfortunately, not the British. I have seen in more or less all member states that the approval of European integration is having a larger adherence of the population.”

The UK voted to leave the EU in last year’s referendum and is expected to trigger the formal Brexit process later this month.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May attended a Brussels summit on Thursday, but left early as the remaining 27 members stayed on to discuss the future of the EU.

"At this summit we've shown once again how Britain will continue to play a leading role in Europe long after we have left the EU,” she told reporters afterwards, citing the examples of security cooperation and hosting a summit for the Western Balkans.

European Council President Donald Tusk said the EU would be ready to respond within two days of May triggering Brexit: "We are well prepared for the whole procedure and I have no doubt that we will be ready in 48 hours."

Meanwhile the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator, MEP Guy Verhofstadt has said he would like a "special arrangement" for UK citizens who want to continue their relationship with the EU, so they can continue to keep some rights, such as freedom to travel.

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