The European commission’s new president has said a hard Brexit would have “massively negative consequences” for both Britain and the EU, and said Brussels could provide emergency help for nations such as Ireland that bear the brunt of such an outcome.
In her first interview since narrowly being approved for the post by the European parliament on Tuesday, Ursula von der Leyen said the withdrawal deal concluded between Theresa May and the commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michael Barnier, would remain the basis of any future talks.
“We don’t want a hard Brexit, it’s a bad outcome for both sides. We have a good withdrawal agreement,” she said in an exclusive interview with the Guardian and four other European newspapers. [...]
When asked about their position, Von der Leyen said the withdrawal agreement was “not dead”. She said: “No, it is a good agreement, which was negotiated properly in accordance with the red lines drawn by the British government.”
She reiterated her view that the EU should consider extending the current Brexit deadline of 31 October if there were “good reasons” to do so. “A Brexit without a deal comes with massively negative consequences for both sides, not to mention what it means for Ireland. That’s why we need to do everything to strive for an orderly Brexit. And that’s why if there are good reasons for an extension coming from our British friends, I am open to listening to them.”
She added: “It would be wrong to see Brexit only as the end of something. The way in which we carry out Brexit will determine our future relationship to our neighbour the United Kingdom. For both sides it is of the highest interest that there is an orderly and good beginning to our future relationships.”
In a wide-ranging interview conducted inside the defence ministry in Berlin that she presided over for six years, Von der Leyen told the Europa group of newspapers that the EU would show solidarity with member states hardest hit by a disorderly British exit.
She said a European unemployment benefit reinsurance scheme, modelled on measures put in place in Germany to cushion the blow of the world financial downturn a decade ago, could be rolled out across the bloc of 27 nations. [...]
Asked whether Ireland could be one of the countries to benefit from such emergency help in the case of a no-deal Brexit, Von der Leyen said: “I can’t predict that. But it is right for Europe to help the member states who are hit hardest.” [...]
Among Brexiters, Von der Leyen has been characterised as a cartoon Eurocrat intent on building “a centralised, undemocratic, updated form of communism”, as the Brexit party leader, Nigel Farage, said in the parliament. She once told an interviewer that her dream was “a united states of Europe – run along the lines of the federal states of Switzerland, Germany or the USA”.
Asked whether her dream had changed since then, she said: “It has become more mature and more realistic. In the European Union we have unity in diversity. That is something different to federalism. I think that is the right path.”
Full article on The Guardian
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