The president of the European Commission has declared himself a “global winner”, before claiming Brexit could accelerate the process of European integration.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Union’s (EU) unelected executive arm, said he wanted the world to know that “the leaving of Britain does not mean the end of the European integration and of the European dream and of the European project, [and] that there are different issues where we can realise further progress despite the perspective of the leave of Britain.
“If we are considering the Brexit case as the beginning of the end, we would make a major mistake, and whenever in Europe major mistakes are made, things are turning in the wrong direction,” he added.
Mr. Juncker was speaking at a press conference with Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta, who will soon assume the EU presidency for the next six months. “You are a local winner, I am a global winner,” Mr. Juncker told Mr. Muscat.
He admitted that when he “was appointed President of the Commission… I wanted to bring the European integration to a point of no return” but denied he had ever been “a euro-enthusiastic or euro-fanatic”.
However, he also described Brexit as a “deconstruction” and said the prospect of any country wanting to leave the EU was “not the perspective I had when I was becoming President of the European Commission”.
“I am not someone who wants to be optimistic and to describe things in an unproper way,” he said. “I want to be realistic.”
Mr. Juncker said of Prime Minister Muscat: “We are very much on the same line, swimming in the same channel, swimming in the same direction.”
During the press conference, Mr. Muscat implied that Britain’s deal for leaving the EU must be deliberately made worse than the terms of its membership.
“We want a fair deal for the United Kingdom but that fair deal has to be inferior to membership,” he told reporters. “We can see no situation where whatever is negotiated ends up being better than the current situation that the United Kingdom has.”