EU will ‘move on’ from Brexit, says Juncker in state of union speech

European commission president says the UK’s departure is tragic and Nigel Farage will regret it, but the EU, as well as the UK, will go on

 Jean-Claude Juncker delivers State of the Union speech (Photo: The Guardian)
Jean-Claude Juncker delivers State of the Union speech (Photo: The Guardian)

European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has declared that the “wind is back in Europe’s sails” during a State of the Union speech, in which he gave his vision for the future of the bloc when the UK makes its “tragic” departure in 2019.

Juncker said he would always deeply lament the UK’s decision to leave the EU. “This will be a very sad and tragic moment in our history, we will always regret this,” Juncker said before responding to heckling from Nigel Farage, by retorting: “I think you will regret this soon, I might say.”

Calling for a summit in Romania on March 30, 2019, the first day of an EU of 27 member states, rather than 28, Juncker said he hoped the continent would that day “wake up” to a more unified bloc.

“We have to respect the will of the British people,” he said. “We are going to make progress. We will keep moving. We will move on because Brexit isn’t everything. It isn’t the future of  Europe. It isn’t the be all and end all ... On the 30 March 2019, we will be a union of 27 and suggest we prepare very well for that date.”

He went on to add: “I have lived the European project through my entire life. I have fought for it, I have worked for it. I have been through good times, and I have been through bad times ... I have sometimes suffered with Europe and agonised over Europe.

“I have been through thick and thin with the European Union and never have I lost my love for the European Union. As we all know there is no love without disappointment, or very rarely.”

Juncker gave his annual speech to the European parliament in Strasbourg in order to propose more help from EU countries, to join the euro, along with a series of institutional changes, including the creation of an EU finance minister.

He went on to rule out Turkey’s accession to the EU in the foreseeable future and called for the presidencies of the European commission and the European council to be combined in the future.

Juncker called for the adoption of qualified majority voting, rather than unanimity, within the council on foreign policy issues and a drive forward in European defence.

He went on to add that the EU would respond to the “collapse of the ambitions in the US” on climate change by stepping into the vacuum and ensuring that Europe protected the world. He said: “Lets catch the wind on our sails.”

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