UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The elected president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Tuesday that Brexit “if it happens” will only be the beginning of a new relationship between Britain and the European Union and “not the end.”
In an implicit warning to Brexit supporters who support their country’s exit from the EU without agreement, she said the EU and London should work to build new ties after a divorce.
“If Brexit is not the end, it will be the beginning of our future relations,” she said, while Irish Phil Phil Hogan named the bloc’s trade commissioner, including talks with Britain after Brexit on a free trade agreement.
The former German minister, who will head the EU’s executive arm on November 1, told reporters in Brussels that she was sure of a “smooth transition” with the outgoing commission, which took over the Brexit file.
Asked about British Parliament pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to demand a new extension, it would be Brexit’s third extension until the end of January 2020, von der Layne said it was entirely up to London.
“The next steps are entirely in the hands of the UK. So I will not comment on their decisions and the next steps they may take,” she said.
Britain was due to leave the European Union on March 29 after a referendum in 2016 to support the country’s exit from the bloc, which was joined by London 46 years ago.
But deep disagreements over the shape of the relationship with the EU and its institutions after the divorce have hampered the London exit and led to a two-time delay.
Johnson, who took office in July, has vowed to get his country out of the EU by the October 31 deadline, whatever the consequences.
But he faces a challenge from the British parliament, which has adopted legislation that must first secure a viable exit agreement with the EU.
Even if Britain leaves the EU on October 31, Brexit’s consequences will be felt by the new commission with the need for a new trade agreement between London and Brussels.
“I think it’s important that we get together a very good trade agreement because I think it will determine the good relations that we want to have in the future,” said von der Leyen.
However, she acknowledged, “We are still in the midst of a difficult process.”
Irish Prime Minister Leo Faradkar hailed the appointment of Phil Hogan, saying it was “a definite advantage that there would be an Irishman responsible for this crucial short period over the next five years.”
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