Britain will regret leaving the European Union, the president of the European Commission warned on Wednesday.
During his annual state of the union address in Strasbourg, Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU would respect the will of the British people but that the bloc would “move on” from the UK’s departure.
“March 29 2019. That will be the date when the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. This will be a very sad and tragic moment in our history — we will always regret this, and I think that you will regret it soon, if I might say,” he said.
Mr Juncker urged the bloc to seize a “window of opportunity” and use the momentum from its recent economic recovery to become more deeply integrated than ever before. Defying the eurosceptic trends that drove Britain to become the first country to decide to leave the EU, Mr Juncker outlined a vision of a bigger eurozone and passport-free Schengen area, under the aegis of a single EU president.
The former Luxembourg Prime Minister also painted a picture of a Europe that would sign new trade deals around the world, although he made no mention of any such pact with Britain after it jumps ship. “The wind is back in Europe’s sails,” he told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, in an unrepentantly federalist speech that mixed English, French and German.