European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker today shot down the U.K. government’s negotiating position on Brexit, saying it could not “choose” the parts of the EU it wanted to remain a part of and discard the rest.
In his annual state of the union speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Juncker said he regretted Brexit “deeply,” but reinforced the uncompromising message that has been delivered by chief negotiator Michel Barnier in recent weeks on key aspects of Theresa May’s Brexit plan.
“[We] ask the British government to understand that someone who leaves the Union cannot be in the same privileged position as a member state. If you leave the Union, you are of course no longer part of our single market, and certainly not only in the parts of it you choose,” said Juncker, referring to the U.K. proposal that it remain within the single market for goods but not services.
The Commission president also offered encouragement for May that the EU would offer Britain a unique deal. “I welcome Prime Minister May’s proposal to develop an ambitious new partnership for the future, after Brexit. We agree with the statement made in [May’s country residence] Chequers that the starting point for such a partnership should be a free-trade area between the United Kingdom and the European Union,” he said.
“The United Kingdom will never be an ordinary third country for us. The United Kingdom will always be a very close neighbor and partner, in political, economic and security terms,” Juncker added.