British 'deserters' will face the consequences, warns EU's Juncker
20 May, 2016
The British people will be treated as “deserters” following a vote to leave the European Union, Jean-Claude Juncker has warned.
In his greatest intervention in the referendum contest, the President of the European Commission said that the UK would face “consquences” and be treated as a “third country” following a break with the EU.
If the British leave Europe, people will have to face the consequences - we will have to, just as they will
The remarks were denounced as “intimidation” by Leave campaigners.
"I'm sure the deserters will not be welcomed with open arms," Mr Juncker, a lifelong European federalist, told Le Monde.
Jean-Claude Juncker noted that David Cameron's reforms package has been absent from the referendum campaign
"If the British should say No, which I hope they don't, then life in the EU will not go on as before," he said. "The United Kingdom will have to accept being regarded as a third country, which won't be handled with kid gloves.
"If the British leave Europe, people will have to face the consequences -- we will have to, just as they will. It's not a threat but our relations will no longer be what they are today."
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He also warned that it will “not be easy” to deliver the package of reforms secured by David Cameron in his referendum.
Key measures, including the suspension of in-work benefits for EU citizens, need legislation to be passed through the European Parliament.
Another day, another threat from those trying to intimidate the British people into voting to remain in the failing EU
Gisela Stuart, Labour MP
He appeared to complain that the deal, which consumed months of work in Brussels as leaders sought to give Mr Cameron the best chance of winning the referendum, had been all but forgotten in the contest. Downing Street have made little play of the concessions.
"We will have to implement the arrangement that we have with David Cameron, which nobody speaks in the referendum campaign. It will not be easy,” he said.
Gisela Stuart, a Labour MP campaigning for Brexit, said: “Another day, another threat from those trying to intimidate the British people into voting to remain in the failing EU. These extraordinary comments are a new low.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has thrown down the gauntlet ahead of Britain’s EU referendum, warning British people that “deserters” will not be welcomed back if the UK leaves the bloc.
Juncker, who earlier this year promised to stay out of the Brexit debate, denied he was issuing a threat.
The EC president, a former prime minister of Luxembourg, did not stipulate how Britain’s relationship with the EU would change – but simply saying it would be different from today.
“I’m sure the deserters will not be welcomed with open arms,” Juncker told French newspaper Le Monde when asked what would happen if the British people voted for Brexit.
“The United Kingdom will have to accept being regarded as a third country, which won’t be handled with kid gloves,” he said.
“If the British leave Europe, people will have to face the consequences – we will have to, just as they will. It’s not a threat, but our relations will no longer be what they are today.”
Juncker’s stern warning comes three months after the European Commission pledged to stay out of the Brexit debate.
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“The Commission will not campaign in the UK and will not be part of the campaign,” EC spokesman Margaritis Schinas said in February.
In the event Brits vote to leave the EU, there will be a two-year limit for negotiating the terms on which the UK would leave.
Unless there is unanimous agreement, or an agreement to extend talks, Britain would be excluded from the bloc.
Even if Britain votes to stay in the EU, there would still be difficult negotiations ahead as member states would still have to implement the deal Cameron struck with the EU in February.
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Juncker warned that it wouldn’t be “easy” for this to happen.
The European Parliament still needs to agree to parts of the deal brokered by Cameron which ensure the UK has “special status” in the bloc.
In the same interview, Juncker dismissed concerns of a volatile relationship between Paris and Berlin.
“A couple sometimes has trouble getting along,” he said.