A whole lot of ink has been spilled over Brexit ever since the UK voted to leave the EU all the way back in 2016. The move divided the country, and though polls showed many Brexiteers regretted their choice, a vote’s a vote: the UK officially left the EU on 31 January 2020. Since, the deals surrounding Brexit have been ongoing and many feel the change has loaded an unnecessary economic strain on the UK.
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Recent comments from European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen have kicked up a whole new fuss. Von der Leyen was asked on Tuesday 28 November whether Britain could ever reverse Brexit, and her answer has brought forth a whole slew of reactions. Here’s what she said and how people have reacted.
Ursula von der Leyen wants the UK to rejoin the EU
Von der Leyen said ‘we goofed it up’ when asked about Brexit. As The Telegraph notes:
She was speaking amid much improved UK relations since the signing of Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland in February and after the shock victory of Geert Wilders, who wants the Netherlands to leave the EU, in Dutch elections last week.
The European Commission president spoke in Brussels at an event hosted by Politico:
First of all, thank God, with the Windsor agreement, we had a new beginning for old friends. Very important.
She explained that she keeps telling her children that they ‘have to fix’ the current situation. She rounded up by saying that her ‘personal opinion’ - that future generations will have to sort out this Brexit mess - is ‘clear’.
Rishi Sunak rejects these claims
Sunak has been Prime Minister of the UK for just over a year, and came into office while Brexit discussions were ongoing. His official spokesperson explained to reporters outside Westminster that Brexit, according to the PM, is not in peril:
It’s through our Brexit freedoms that we are, right now, considering how to further strengthen our migration system.
It is through our Brexit freedoms we are ensuring patients in the UK can get access to medicines faster, that there is improved animal welfare. That is very much what we are focused on.
The spokesperson stated that Sunak ‘championed Brexit before it was in his career interests to do so because he believes in it passionately’. He went on to say that Sunak’s team is ‘very focused on making a success of it’.
Other reactions suggest Brexit is here to stay
Euronews published an article that suggests the UK rejoining the UK is unlikely. Given that Sunak has already said no, and that Keir Starmer - a firm Remainer - has also ruled out a return to the EU, this seems a reasonable analysis.
Furthermore, it’s already been years since we left. As Georg Riekeles, a former diplomatic adviser to the former EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, says the EU has changed:
First and foremost, we’d be talking about an entirely new discussion. It will not be about the possibility of the UK rejoining on past terms.
So, it looks like bad news for those who were hoping to see a reversed Brexit. The divorce, it would appear, is remaining firmly in place.
BBC: Brexit: What you need to know about the UK leaving the EU
The Telegraph: UK should rejoin EU to ‘fix’ Brexit, says Ursula von der Leyen
Euronews: Brits regret Brexit but rejoining the EU is unlikely
The Guardian: Sunak rejects von der Leyen’s comments that UK could rejoin EU