Former MEP and the European Commission’s vice President Frans Timmermans has written a “love letter” to the British people, promising a warm welcome back should attitudes towards the EU change in the future.
He also lamented Britain being “unnecessarily” damaged by Brexit, with “more to follow”.
Mr Timmermans is Ursula von der Leyen’s deputy in her role as European Commission president. He wrote that British scepticism of the EU was once regarded as an asset to the bloc, and expressed feelings of rejection ahead of the country’s impending departure on 31st January, comparing himself to a jilted “old lover”.
In the article, he argued that British caution towards the EU acted as a healthy counterweight to the more federalist ambitions of various figures within the trading bloc. He writes “I know you now. And I love you. For who you are and what you gave me. I’m like an old lover”.
“I know your strengths and your weaknesses. I know you can be generous but also miserly. I know you believe yourself to be unique and different. And of course you are in many ways, but perhaps less than you think.”
“You will never stop referring to the rest of us as ‘the continent’,” Mr Timmermans pointed out, despite being part of Europe and a member of the EU for decades.
“It helps you to create a distance you think you need. But it also prevents you from seeing that in fact we all need a bit of distance between us. All European nations are unique. Our differences are a source of admiration, surprise, discomfort, misunderstanding, ridicule, caricature and, yes, love.”
Negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK will start in March, once the latter has formally withdrawn and negotiating positions on both sides of the channel have been confirmed.