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Europe’s most powerful official today said Britain will “soon regret” Brexit as he mapped out plans for a powerful superstate without the UK.
In a keynote speech, Jean-Claude Juncker used Britain’s departure to embark on a drive towards deeper integration of the 27 remaining states.
He airily dismissed Britain’s departure as “not the be all and end all” for the other 27 states.
“Brexit is not the future of Europe,” he said, stressing that the rest would “move on”.
His speech came as a former Brexit Minister made a dramatic intervention in the debate over Britain’s withdrawal by urging the Government to break the deadlock by offering to pay into the Brussels budget during a transition period of up to two years.
Lord Bridges said a bold offer could secure a transitional that would protect jobs and growth during Brexit.
“We should make it clear that we are willing to continue to contribute to the EU budget as we cross the bridge – in other words, between March 2019 and the end of 2020,” he said.
The peer, who resigned from the Government, said Brexit was a “gargantuan” challenge and said the UK must be “honest” about the “complexity and scale” of it.
Speaking in the House of Lords, he also criticised “careless talk” by Downing Street aides that Mrs May wanted to be remembered for other policies.
In a caustic passage, Lord Bridges said: “To say we do not wish to be defined by Brexit is like Winston Churchill saying in 1940 he did not want his government to be defined by the war.”
Mr Juncker gave only a few minutes of his hour-long address to Brexit. He said: “This will be a very sad and tragic moment in our history. We will always regret this, and I think that you will regret it as well, soon.”
He would “respect the will of the British people” but he boasted that the “wind is back in Europe’s sails”.
“We will move on because Brexit isn’t everything, it’s not the future of everything, it’s not the be all and end all.”
The Eurocrat devoted most of his presidential “State of the European Union” address in the European Parliament to a bold power-grab.
Strikingly, he proposed there should be a new elected President of Europe to “steer the ship”, combining his own job as president of the Brussels-based Commission with the post of Council President, currently held by Donald Tusk.
Other proposals include setting European taxes in future by majority voting, which would mean stripping away the right of individual countries to veto taxes.
He announced an EU summit to be held on the day after Brexit, 30 March 2019, in the Romanian city of Sibiu where the 27 should lay out their future plans.
In future, he said, all EU states should be members of the single currency zone and the Schengen travel area, increasing the so called “core” of the club.
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