'Love letter' from EU chief says UK always welcome back after Brexit
The UK will always be welcome to rejoin the EU after Brexit, a top official has written in a 'love letter' to the country.
Frans Timmerman, vice-president of the European Commission, said the UK had been "unnecessarily damaged" by Brexit and warned that "more will follow" after the UK's 31 January exit date.
It comes as Boris Johnson gears up to push his Brexit deal through Parliament in the first week back in the New Year.
It will mean the UK formally exits the EU at the end of the month before undergoing a year long negotiation on the UK's future relationship with the bloc.
But writing in the Guardian, the former Dutch foreign minister said the UK's decision to leave had left him feeling like a spurned "old lover", adding: "I know you now. And I love you.
"For who you are and what you gave me. I’m like an old lover. I know your strengths and weaknesses. I know you can be generous but also miserly.
"I know you believe yourself to be unique and different. And of course you are in many ways, but perhaps less than you think. You will never stop referring to the rest of us as “the continent”.
"It helps you to create the distance you think you need. But it also prevents you from seeing that we all need a bit of distance between us."
He added: "You have decided to leave. It breaks my heart, but I respect that decision.
"You were in two minds about it, like you have always been in two minds about the EU.
"I wish you had stuck to that attitude, it served you well and it kept all of us in better shape."
He added: "Was it neccesary to force the issue? Not at all. But you did. And the sad thing is, I set it is hurting you.
"Because the tow minds will still be there, even after you left.
"In the process so much unnecessary damage has been done to you, and all of us. And I fear more will follow.
"But at the same time I find comfort in the though that family ties can never really be severed.
"We are not going away and you will always be welcome to come back."
But the comments from the top EU official provoked fury from former Conservative Party leader and leading Brexiteer, Iain Duncan Smith, who branded Mr Timmermans "arrogant" over the letter.
"In his letter he talks a lot about us, but he never talks about the EU's failings.
"Instead of writing a letter to us he'd have been far better off writing a letter to the European Commission and to all of the heads of state considering how things went so badly wrong for them."
Meanwhile, fellow Eurosceptic Tory MP Nigel Evans, told the Telegraph that "just because the marriage ends, it doesn't mean the love affair can't continue."
He added: "I understand the emotion in Mr Timmermans' letter. It's emotional for all of us, there will be no glee as we pull the EU flag down on Jan 31.
"But just because we're not fans of the EU doesn't mean we don't love Europe. We still want a warm relationship with the rest of Europe."