German Eurocrat Nominee ‘Hopes’ UK Stays in EU

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JULY 04: Nominee President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen (L) is welcome by the outgoing President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker (R) in the Berlaymont, the EU Commission headquarter on July 4, 2019 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)
Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Ursula von der Leyen has told British lawmakers she “hope[s] you remain” in the European Union, adding that she would not reopen Brexit negotiations.

Germany’s defence minister, who was nominated to become the next president of the European Commission in July, made the comments at a European Parliament hearing ahead of a vote on her confirmation next week.

Mrs von der Leyen’s comments were reported by the BBC, when she said: “Though I still hope you remain, it is in our interests to have you sort things out. We have an agreement — which hasn’t been signed on both sides — and we have the backstop.”

The latter comment was made in reference to the controversial Irish backstop, which to date the Europeans say they will not renegotiate, but which the UK fears could either lock it in regulatory alignment with the EU permanently — preventing the UK making future independent trade deals — or threaten the union if Northern Ireland remains in the Customs Union whilst Great Britain diverges after the implementation period.

“I think it’s a good deal, but it is your responsibility and your noble task to sort this out,” she added, signalling that if she heads the EU’s executive branch, she would not reopen negotiations.

The German politician is due to take over from Jean-Claude Juncker on November 1st if her nomination is backed by MEPs.

Mrs von der Leyen would not be the first European politician to wish that the UK reverses British citizens’ 2016 instruction to the government to exit the EU.

European Council president Donald Tusk said in April that he had not given up “dreaming” about Britain cancelling Brexit, saying: “During the European Council one of the leaders warned us not to be dreamers and that we shouldn’t think that Brexit can be reversed… We cannot give into fatalism. At least, I will not stop dreaming about a better and united Europe.”

Similar comments were made the same month by vice-president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, who said British politicians should use the latest six-month Brexit delay to “cool down and rethink things a bit”, and in suggesting the UK might reverse the Leave vote, added: “Who knows what might change in the meantime?”

While outgoing Commission president Juncker said in May that it was a “mistake” for Brussels “not to intervene and not to interfere” during the 2016 EU membership campaign, and that “I was wrong to be silent at an important moment.”


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