BRUSSELS: European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday Britain’s departure would not hold the EU back, as he unveiled plans for the bloc’s post-Brexit future.
Juncker laid out five possible scenarios including reducing the European Union to just a single market, returning some powers to member countries and creating a “multi-speed” Europe.
“However painful and regrettable Brexit may be, it cannot stop the European Union on its march to the future,” Juncker said as he presented his White Paper to the European Parliament in Brussels.
Juncker also urged national governments to “stop the Brussels-bashing” in a bid to win over increasingly eurosceptic voters, saying the commission had stopped meddling in issues like “toilet flushes or the height of children’s swings”.
EU leaders will now consider Juncker’s options ahead of a summit in Rome on March 25 marking the bloc’s 60th anniversary, where they will make their own declarations about the way forward after Britain’s expected departure in 2019.
The foreign ministers of France and Germany signalled that Juncker’s “multi-speed” option had their backing, saying it would allow some members to move forward with projects like closer defence cooperation without waiting for reluctant countries to get on board.
“Without calling into question what we have accomplished, we must also find ways of better taking into account the different ambition levels of the member states so that Europe can respond better to the needs of European citizens,” Jean-Marc Ayrault and Sigmar Gabriel said in a joint statement.
Since the shock Brexit vote last June, the other 27 EU states have been soul-searching about how to deal with challenges including rising populism, the election of Donald Trump in the United States and an increasingly assertive Russia.