'The time will come when Britain regrets Brexit', warns Jean-Claude Juncker

Frederick Owens
March 14, 2018

That frustration was reinforced by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who also told EU legislators that "there is increasing urgency to negotiate this orderly withdrawal".

Several issues remain to be solved, including finding a solution for the future of the Irish border.

"It is our responsibility to detail operationally how we will avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland without another solution and bearing in mind the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the single market and the customs union", he said.

"The 27 member states stand firm and united when it comes to Ireland". "If you decide to jettison, leave behind, the common agreements and rules, then you have to accept that things can not remain as they are".

A series of speeches by May and her senior ministers have done little to satisfy Brussels, and Juncker warned it was particularly crucial for London to clarify its plans for the sensitive issue of the Irish border.

"We will keep making this point in the run-up to the European Council next week", Juncker told the European Parliament."We are expecting more clarity on the American side in the coming days and will continue to work with our partners to push for an exemption".

Both Britain and the European Union have vowed to avoid the return of customs checks to the border and an interim deal in December left some flexibility on the issue, but an European Union text putting the agreement into law has sparked a fresh row with London.

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The bloc has repeatedly dismissed such an idea as "cherry-picking" and European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier once again rejected on Tuesday.

"One can not have at the same time the status of a third country and demand at the same time the advantages of the (European) Union", Barnier told a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Their calls during a debate in the European Parliament come just a week before a crucial European leaders summit where it is hoped both parties will agree on the terms of a transition period before moving on to trade talks.

"The EU is bullying us", he said, before urging Theresa May "to do what Trump has done and stand strong against the European Commission, against the unelected bullies".

Delivering a damning verdict on May's speech, the Parliament's Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt said, "It is mainly repeating the red lines that we know already two years".

Mr Verhofstadt said it was time to move beyond "slogans" and "soundbites".

The UK had no need to be "shocked", he said, that Brussels was holding the British government to its commitments made in a joint report with the commission last December to otherwise keep Northern Ireland in lock step with European Union law, as the status quo would not last beyond Brexit day on 29 March 2019.

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