EU’s Juncker tells Britain to ‘clarify position as rapidly as possible’

EU’s Juncker tells Britain to ‘clarify position as rapidly as possible’

BRUSSELS – Agence France-Presse
EU’s Juncker tells Britain to ‘clarify position as rapidly as possible’

United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage (L) reacts as he meets European Union (EU) Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of a plenary session at the EU headquarters in Brussels on June 28, 2016. AFP photo

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker urged June 28 U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to clarify quickly when Britain intends to leave the EU, saying there can be no negotiation on future ties before London formally applies to exit.

“I will see the prime minister later this morning... to ask him to clarify the situation as rapidly as possible. We cannot get into a period of extended uncertainty,” Juncker told the European Parliament, adding: “No notification, no negotiation.”

Following the June 23 referendum in which a majority of Britons voted to leave the European Union, London has to invoke the so-called Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, starting the clock on two years to negotiate the terms of the exit.

But Cameron, who was scheduled to be in Brussels later on June 28 for probably his last summit of EU leaders, has said that London will not take this step yet, saying on June 27 that Britain needs first to “determine the kind of relationship we want with the EU.” 

Juncker however, echoing the leaders of Germany, France and Italy after their meeting in Berlin on June 27, said that there could not even be informal discussions until London has formally filed for divorce from the 28-nation bloc.

“It cannot be that people now secretly seek to start negotiations,” he said. “It is we who must decide what happens, not just those who wish to leave the European Union.” 

‘Why are you here?’ Juncker asks Brexit lawmakers

Meanwhile, Juncker asked lawmakers of Britain’s anti-EU UKIP on June 28 why they had attended a European Parliament session to discuss the consequences of the British vote to leave the bloc. 

“We must respect British democracy and the way it has expressed its view,” Juncker said in a speech to parliament, words that were greeted by rare applause from the UKIP members present. 

“That’s the last time you are applauding here... and to some extent I’m really surprised you are here. You are fighting for the exit. The British people voted in favor of the exit. Why are you here?” Juncker continued, breaking from his speech text. 

“It’s a pleasure,” UKIP leader Nigel Farage retorted.

Juncker spoke from a desk next to that of Farage, who followed the largely French and German speech with headphones and with a British flag planted in front of him. 

Before the session began, Farage had gone over to speak to Juncker. Both men appeared relaxed and as Farage made to leave, Juncker pulled him close and gave him an air-kiss on the cheek. 

Juncker said he would make no apology for being “sad” at the result of the British vote - “I am not a robot,” he said, “I am not a grey bureaucrat.” 

On a rare personal note, the 61-year-old former Luxembourg prime minister, struck out at critics, notably in the German press but also among east European governments, who have called on him to stand down following the Brexit vote. 

“I am neither tired or sick, as the German papers say,” he said. “I will fight to my last breath for a united Europe.”