EU President to Brit Students: ‘Choose Collaboration’ with EU over ‘Isolation’

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ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images

The new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has urged British students to “choose collaboration” with the European Union over “isolation” in a speech to the London School of Economics (LSE).

The new eurocrat-in-chief spent a year at the LSE herself, but bragged that she “spent more time in Soho bars and Camden record stores than I did reading books” during her time there, and “got to know a warm, vibrant, colourful, multicultural society – the likes of which I had not really experienced before”.

“I immersed myself in this melting pot of cultures, traditions and music,” said the German, a notionally conservative politician, as a member of Angela Merkel’s notionally conservative Christian Democrat Union (CDU).

But, while she paid “tribute today to all those British people who contributed so much to the 45 plus years of EU membership”, she was clear that the relationship between the British and the European Union “cannot and will not be the same” after Brexit, and “will not be as close as before – because with every choice comes a consequence.”

“You can choose collaboration over isolation, you can shape your continent’s destiny, you can hold your governments accountable, you can refuse to be satisfied with the status quo and can turn things into how they should be,” von der Leyen urged.

“This is the story of old friends and new beginnings. In this good sense: Long live Europe!” she concluded.

The speech coincided with a meeting between the Commission president and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, where he sketched out his own ambition for a “broad free trade agreement covering goods and services, and cooperation in other areas” — a so-called ‘Super Canada’ deal modelled on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada.

Von der Leyen did say in her speech that the European Union was “ready to design a new partnership with zero tariffs, zero quotas, zero dumping… that goes well beyond trade and is unprecedented in scope” — as Brexit campaigners have long argued would happen.

She warned, however, that “without an extension of the transition period” — in which Britain will remain an EU member-state in all but name while trade negotiations are conducted — “beyond 2020, you cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our new partnership.”

“We will have to prioritise,” she said.

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