EU presidents say UK can still change mind on Brexit

By @chelean on
Theresa May
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos (not shown) speak to journalists after their bilateral meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, November 2, 2016. Reuters/Kirsty Wigglesworth/pool

The European Union has offered the United Kingdom to change its mind about Brexit. British Prime Minister Theresa May, however, refused.

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday that if the UK didn’t want to continue the Brexit process anymore, they would welcome it back. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker echoed his sentiment, saying they hoped London would reconsider.

“Unless there is a change of heart among our British friends, Brexit will become a reality with all its negative consequences in March next year. We, here on the continent, haven’t had a change of heart. Our hearts are still open for you,” Tusk said in his speech.

“He said that our door is still open. I hope this is heard in London,” Juncker added. The Commission is negotiating UK’s departure from the EU.

Tusk spoke following suggestions in the UK that it should hold another referendum on Brexit. Although he welcomed a change of heart, he also wanted the UK to move quickly and define its plans clearly.

“What we need today is more clarity on the UK’s vision,” he said. And once they have clarity, the leaders would be able to decide on the EU’s future relationship with the UK as a third country.

The two officials’ statements came after it was revealed that the EU would toughen up its conditions on Britain if the country went ahead with Brexit. According to the leaked draft of the Council’s instructions to its negotiators, obtained by the Independent, the bloc would demand an explicit veto on British trade deals signed with other member countries for two years after Brexit. The EU free movement would also be extended until the end of the transition period and with no controls on immigration until 2021.

On whether Britain can withdraw its mandatory two-year notice to quit the union, constitutional lawyers are still debating the issue. However, it is believed that an EU political census could be found to prevent Brexit from happening.

Guy Verhofstadt, who coordinates Brexit for the European Parliament, promised a bleak future for Britain once it left the EU. “What we will never allow as a parliament is that at the end, you can have a better position, a better status outside the European Union than inside the European Union,” he said. “Inside the European Union will always be the best solution for every European country and European state.”

Nevertheless, May’s spokesman ruled out a second referendum. “We’ve been absolutely clear. British people have voted to leave the EU and that is what we will be doing,” the spokesman was quoted by the AFP as saying.

Votes for Brexit – a portmanteau of Britain and exit – won over the “Remain” votes 52 to 48 percent in June 2016. Following the shock win of the pro-Brexits, then-Prime Minister David Cameron, who campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU but was the one who set the referendum, resigned from office. May eventually emerged as the new leader of the Conservative Party and as the new PM.