Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, the presidents of the European Council and Commission respectively, have both said that the door is still open to UK membership if Britain changes its mind.
European Council President Donald Tusk said in a speech to the European Parliament that Brexit would “become a reality – with all its negative consequences” – in March 2019 “unless there is a change of heart among our British friends”.
“We, here on the continent, haven’t had a change of heart. Our hearts are still open to you,” Mr Tusk said.
His comments were supported by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who told the parliamentary session that the EU door remained open and he hoped Tusk’s comments would be clearly heard in London.
Frans Timmermans, the vice-president of the Commission, also told MEPs that “if at some point the United Kingdom has second thoughts or would take another decision, obviously the European Union would leave the door open”.
The European Parliament’s chief Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt warned the UK there could be no “cherry-picking” on a transition period after the UK’s exit.
The UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016, but since then, there has been a growing debate in the UK on the possibility of holding a second referendum on a final Brexit deal – with the implication that if it was rejected, the country would remain in the EU.
Yet, both the British government and the European Union have stated that they remain committed to the negotiations, which passed the first phase in December and are due to move on in the next few months.