I’LL PUNISH BRITAIN
Juncker vows to make UK pay heavily for Brexit so other nations ‘realise it’s not worth it’
BRITAIN will be punished for Brexit to discourage other EU states from quitting, European Commission chief Jean- Claude Juncker has warned.
In an incendiary intervention, Mr Juncker suggested Brussels would use the Brexit talks to make an example of the UK in order to prevent the collapse of the EU.
He also warned Theresa May she will have to accept a controversial demand from Brussels for a £50billion ‘divorce payment’.
Asked by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag whether he was concerned that other member states will follow Britain’s example in quitting, Mr Juncker said: ‘No. Britain’s example will make everyone realise that it’s not worth leaving.’
He added: ‘On the contrary, the remaining member states will fall in love with each other again and renew their vows with the European Union.’
Mr Juncker, former prime minister of Luxembourg, also warned that Britain would need to get used to being treated as a non-member of the EU. ‘Half memberships and cherry-picking aren’t possible. In Europe you eat what’s on the table or you don’t sit at the table,’ he said.
Tory MPs reacted angrily to Mr Juncker’s combative statement, which is out of step with the more constructive tone struck by Germany and other EU countries in recent months. Eurosceptic MP Peter Bone said: ‘It is like the dying words of the leader of an empire as it collapses. The trouble is of course the European elite have ignored the wishes of their people for so long.
‘He is out of touch, living in a fool’s paradise. The problem of Brexit is entirely a problem for the EU.’
Senior Tories also dismissed the idea that the UK will have to make a payment when it leaves on the scale demanded by Brussels.
A House of Lords report this month said the UK had no legal duty to pay anything once it has left.
Brexit minister David Jones yesterday described the report’s findings as ‘very helpful’, although he did not rule out Britain making some form of payment as part of the negotiations over leaving the EU.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said Britain owed ‘ not even a farthing’. And veteran Eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash said the EU should take into account that the UK helped cancel half of Germany’s war debts in 1953.
Sir Bill, chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee which was questioning Mr Jones over EU-UK relations, asked the minister: ‘Has anyone pointed out to them that we have been net contributors for many decades to the tune of what is now £9-£10billion a year?
‘Any accumulated liabilities are offset by the massive contributions we have made.
‘There is also the fact that back in 1953 we had the London Debt Agreement where Germany, for all its malfeasance during the Second World War and its unprovoked aggression... found that we remitted half of all German debt.
‘Given Germany’s domination in the EU, it might be worth tactfully reminding people.’
Mr Juncker’s comments appear to be another riposte to Boris Johnson’s claim that the UK can ‘have its cake and eat it’ in the Brexit talks. The Foreign Secretary has suggested that Britain can retain good trade links without signing up to free movement, massive contributions to the Brussels budget and continued EU bureaucracy.
Downing Street played down Mr Juncker’s latest intervention yesterday. The PM’s official spokesman said: ‘We have said many times we are at the start of negotiations and let’s see how it unfolds.’
But Richard Tice, co-chairman of Leave Means Leave, said: ‘For the President of the EU Commission to make these disparaging comments before negotiations have started is completely inappropriate as well as being illegal according to the wording of Article 50. It seems clear that he is determined to pursue a spiteful campaign against Britain, which will impact negatively on the citizens of the EU he claims to represent.
‘No deal is better than a bad deal and if the EU is adamant about offering us such a bad deal, the Prime Minister should walk away at the earliest opportunity.’
Collapsing empire: Mr Juncker