EU chief nominee hopes Britain will ditch Brexit
EU president nominee Ursula von der Leyen said yesterday she hopes Britain will abandon Brexit but warned London it must take responsiblity for “sorting out” its tortured departure from the bloc. Von der Leyen said the divorce deal agreed with Prime Minister Theresa May but rejected by British lawmakers was a good one, signalling that under her leadership the European Commission will be no more willing to renegotiate than before.
She insisted there would be no change to the Irish “backstop” and warned the two men vying to replace May, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, that the “tone and attitude” of Brexit were vitally important to future relations between Britain and the EU. Both have pledged to renegotiate the Brexit deal to get better terms or leave without one -- but the EU has been adamant it will not reopen the text.
Three years after the shock referendum vote to quit the bloc, Brexit remains a highly divisive issue in the UK and von der Leyen said that while she still hoped Britain would stay, London must act to end the impasse. “Though I still hope you remain, it is in our interests to have you sort things out. We have an agreement -- which hasn’t been signed on both sides -- and we have the backstop,” she said in response to a question from a British MEP at a hearing with centrist deputies at the European Parliament.
“I think it’s a good deal but it is your responsibility and your noble task to sort things out,” she added, in her first public comments on Brexit since being nominated as commission president. Von der Leyen, nominated by EU national leaders last week to take over from Jean-Claude Juncker on November 1, the day after Britain is due to leave, was wooing MEPs ahead of a confirmation vote in the European Parliament next week.