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Tue, 29 September 2020

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EU warns Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt not to expect Brexit shift after choosing first female president

EU warns Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt not to expect Brexit shift after choosing first female president
2 min read

European leaders have warned the next Prime Minister they will not shift position on Brexit as Ursula von der Leyen was nominated as the new European Commission chief.

The German defence minister - a close ally of the country's chancellor Angela Merkel - has been chosen to replace Jean Claude-Juncker as President of the Commission when he steps down later this year.

International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde has been nominated to head up the European Central Bank, while Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has been put forward to become the next president of the European Council, the EU body that brings together its national leaders.

But EU officials warned that the appointments - which still need the formal approval of the European Parliament - will not lead to a shift in the bloc's position on Brexit.

Outgoing EU Council President Donald Tusk said: "I am absolutely sure that the new leaders of our institutions will be as consistent as we are today when it comes to the withdrawal agreement and our readiness to discuss our future relationship with the UK."

Conservative leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have vowed to try and renegotiate the withdrawal agreement thrashed out by Theresa May, with both candidates arguing that ramping up preparations for a no-deal Brexit will make it more likely that the bloc will agree to reopen talks.

But French President Emmanuel  Macron said: "We must not fear no-deal. If you fear no-deal you are the hostage of the ones you are facing."

Ms von der Leyen, who will take charge of Brexit negotiations from November onwards alongside Mr Michel, has previously described the aftermath of the 2016 EU referendum as a "burst bubble of hollow promises".

"People are starting to realise, after the Brexit vote and the election in the US, what it means to believe the promises of populists," she told German magazine Der Spiegel.

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