STRASBOURG, France – The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said on Tuesday that Brussels was looking to make the best out of Brexit and was not looking to punish the United Kingdom for its decision to withdraw from the bloc.
Juncker made his comments during a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
“We do not want to punish the United Kingdom, but we have to respect the vote in the UK,” Juncker told lawmakers during an intense week of negotiations between London and the EU in a bid to reach a deal.
“The European Union, the continent, has to recognize that Britain, starting in ‘39, was playing a major role when it came to the liberty and the freedom of this continent. We are grateful for that,” he said.
Juncker qualified the UK’s decision to withdraw from the bloc as “a tragedy, a historical error, a mistake,” but said “we have to do the best out of it and the European Commission together with Michel Barnier is moving into that direction.”
The border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland continued to be a sticking point in the negotiations between both parties.
The UK electorate narrowly voted in favor of leaving the bloc in a referendum in June 2016.