The President of the European Commission hit out at Whitehall, claiming Brussels is not trying to keep the UK in the EU but wants to start discussing future ties as soon as possible. Demanding “clarity”, Mr Juncker urged Britain to get its act together and let Brussels know when and if it will leave the bloc. He told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag: “It is being insinuated that our aim is to keep the United Kingdom in the EU by all possible means.
When asked whether the UK would hold a second referendum, currently promoted by the People’s Vote campaign, Mr Juncker added: “That is for the British to decide.
“I am working on the assumption that it will leave, because that is what the people of the United Kingdom have decided.”
The British Parliament was meant to hold the so-called meaningful vote on the Brexit deal thrashed by Prime Minister Theresa May on December 12.
However, Mrs May pulled the vote just hours before the Commons met, arguing she had heard MPs’ concerns on her Brexit agreement and wanted to go back to Brussels to seek clarifications on major sticking points.
In the run up to that day, many members of the Parliament, including some Mrs May’s fellow Tories, had said they would vote down her deal because they were concerned it would keep linked the UK to the EU for an indefinite period of time through the Irish backstop.
The vote is now expected to take place on January 14.
Mr Juncker also spoke about other challenges faced by the EU27, including worldwide trade and internal divisions.
Speaking about the ongoing tensions between Brussels and Washington, sparked earlier this year when US President Donald Trump threatened to apply hefty tariffs on cars imported from EU members, Mr Juncker highlighted the importance of keeping one’s word during talks.
He said: “I trust Donald Trump for as long as he keeps his word.
“And if he no longer keeps it, then I will no longer feel bound by my word either.”
Mr Juncker and Mr Trump met during the summer to agree on a truce after the US President’s declaration had sparked a trade war with Brussels.
The parts have been entwined in trade talks for the past months.
But Mr Juncker’s attention is said to be particularly focused on the challenges to tackle ahead of the European Parliament election, taking place in May 2019.
Saying he feels EU citizens are growing apart, with some backing nationalist parties and other wanting a more united Europe, he explained: “We have to ensure that these rifts do not become too deep.
“We must not imply that the populists are right, they are just loud and do not have any specific proposals to offer on solving the challenges of our time.”
He also touched upon worries the vote could be hacked.
About this, Mr Juncker said Europe had to stand united “in combating the trolls and hacker groups from China or Russia” that could seek to sway the European vote.