Juncker blames Tony Blair for Brexit telling him vote result ‘shouldn’t come as surprise’


JEAN-CLAUDE JUNKER has fired a parting shot at his “friend” Tony Blair as he prepares to stand down as President of the European Commission.

Mr Juncker, whose term of office coincided with Brexit and a surge in support for anti-EU populist parties across the continent, is scheduled to hand power to Ursula von der Leyen at the end of November. He said he made a decision not to get involved with the Brexit debate ahead of the 2016 referendum but on reflection believes staying silent was a big mistake.

And he bemoaned the UK’s enduring reluctance to embrace the European project and forge closer bonds with their continental counterparts.

He told Der Spiegel: “I have been involved in European politics since December 1982 and have seen time and again that the British have operated on the premise: We are only in the EU for economic reasons.

“When it came to the political union, to moving closer together, they wanted nothing to do with the EU.

“That was even the case with my friend Tony Blair.

“If you stick to that narrative for over 40 years, it should not come as a surprise when people remember it during the referendum.”

Mr Juncker said he was never convinced by the the majority of observers who expected the British to vote narrowly in favour of remaining in the EU.

He said: “I was one of those early on who was firmly convinced that this referendum would go wrong.

“When David Cameron told me on the sidelines of the 2014 G-20 summit in Brisbane that he really wanted to hold a Brexit referendum, I told him: ‘You’re going to lose it’.”

Mr Juncker was asked why he did not campaign for Britain to stay in the EU.

He replied: “I had many invitations, but Cameron made it clear that he didn’t have any use for me.

“The European Commission is even less popular in Britain than it is on the Continent.

“I decided not to get involved. Looking at it today, I think that was a big mistake.

“So many lies were told, including by current Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that there needed to be a voice to counter them.”

Mr Juncker’s five-year term is now scheduled to end on December 1 after a failed November 1 transition.

Due to a series of embarrassing defeats, in which Ms von der Leyen has had to ask France, Hungary and Romania to put forward new candidates for her European Commission, the succession has had to be delayed.

Her appointment was controversial as she chosen behind closed doors by EU leaders as something of a compromise candidate after a failure to agree on recommendations from elected MEPS.

Bur despite her struggle to assemble a commission on time, Mr Juncker said he thought she was still the right person for the job.

He said: “I think she has everything necessary to serve in this capacity. But it is true that I had an easier start.

“This was due to my friendships with the Social Democrats; ultimately, I also have the Social Democrats and Martin Schulz to thank for my getting into office.

“In my own camp, the conservative European Peoples’ Party, many voted against me – Hungary, for example.

“The right-wing nationalists said: ‘We’ll never vote for you’. And I said: ‘I never want to be someone you’d vote for, either’.”

When it came to the political union, to moving closer together, they wanted nothing to do with the EU


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