Jean-Claude Juncker tells Britain to get its 'act together' over Brexit

Posted On: 
30th December 2018

Britain has been told to get its "act together" over Brexit by one of the European Union's top officials.

The European Commission President had a heated exchange with Theresa May earlier this month.
Credit: 
PA

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker branded Brits "entirely unreasonable" for expecting the EU to break the parliamentary deadlock over Theresa May's deal.

And he rejected claims that Brussels wants to keep the UK inside the bloc "by all possible means".

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Mrs May faced a bruising encounter with EU leaders earlier this month after she vowed to seek fresh guarantees that Britain will not be indefinitely kept in the Northern Ireland backstop part of her agreement.

The Prime Minister returned to Brussels following her decision to postpone a Commons vote on the deal in the face of almost-certain defeat.

Speaking to German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Mr Juncker said: "It is not us who are leaving the United Kingdom - it is the United Kingdom that is leaving the European Union.

"I find it entirely unreasonable for parts of the British public to believe that it is for the EU alone to propose a solution for all future British problems.

"My appeal is this: get your act together and then tell us what it is you want. Our proposed solutions have been on the table for months."

The European Commission chief - who was pictured in an apparently heated discussion with Mrs May at this month's summit - said he believed that most parliamentarians in the UK had little faith in either Brussels or the British Prime Minister.

"I have the impression that the majority of British MPs deeply distrust both the EU and Mrs May," he said.

But he added: "It is being insinuated that our aim is to keep the United Kingdom in the EU by all possible means. That is not our intention."

The latest intervention from Mr Juncker came as Cabinet minister Liam Fox warned MPs that rejecting Mrs May's deal could result in a "50-50" chance that Brexit will not go ahead at all.

The International Trade Secretary also urged opponents of the deal to to swallow their “pride” and show “humility” in the face of the 2016 referendum result.

"What you can be sure of is that if we vote for the prime minister’s deal then it’s 100% certain that we will leave on March 29," he told the Sunday Times.

"If we do not vote for that, I’m not sure I would give it much more than 50-50. And for me that would induce a sense that we had betrayed the people that voted in the referendum."

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt meanwhile talked up the chances of a "dynamic" Singapore-style low-tax future for the British economy if Brexiteers swing behind Mrs May's deal.

"This deal delivers what the people voted for – control of our borders, our money and our laws – and will allow the country to move on to the next challenge, namely negotiating a trade deal that gives us an independent ability to plough our furrow in the world," he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

"In Asia this week I will sit down with those most eager to strengthen their links with Britain once we have left the European Union. Let’s not let them down."