Jean-Claude Juncker: Britain will regret Brexit
The UK will regret its decision to quit the European Union, Jean-Claude Juncker said today as he laid out his vision for the bloc's future.
The European Commission president said while the Brexit vote marked a “tragic” point in the history of the union, the remaining 27 members must move on.
In his annual 'state of the union' speech in Brussels, he said the EU will “always regret” Brexit, before veering off script, adding: “I think you will regret it soon, if I must say.”
“Nonetheless, we will move on. We have to respect the will of the British people,” he added.
"But we are going to make progress, we will keep moving, because Brexit isn't everything, it isn't the future of Europe."
Mr Juncker said although last year the EU appeared “battered and bruised”, it was "slowly but surely gathering momentum”.
He spoke of moves to combine the Commission and Council’s presidents into one, to move towards EU-wide euro currency use, and of new trade deals for the bloc.
"The wind is back in Europe's sails. Now we have a window of opportunity, but it will not stay open for ever," he mused.
"Let us make the most of the moment: catch the wind in our sails."
Guy Verhofstadt - the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator - meanwhile took the opportunity to mock former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, saying Germans would not be "so stupid" as to support quitting the bloc.
Mr Farage recently addressed a campaign event for German eurosceptic party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).
But Belgian-born Mr Verhofstadt argued anti-EU movements in western European countries were on the decline.
"You have to keep up the good work Nigel... but unfortunately I don’t think that the German people are so stupid as to do that with the AfD,” he said.
Mr Farage shot back: “You’re deluding yourself Mr Verhofstadt, if you think the populist wave is over. Far from the populist wave being over, I doubt it’s even begun.”
Mr Juncker’s speech comes as French economy minister and close ally to President Emmanuel Macron, Benjamin Griveaux, visits the UK.
Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, he called for “less ambiguity” on Brexit, while adding that “France is the new place to be in continental Europe” for financial institutions.