Readers have had their say after he European Commission president has insisted Britain will soon regret voting for Brexit.
In a speech setting out the future direction of the bloc, Jean-Claude Juncker said the UK’s exit would be a “sad and tragic” moment, but it was “not the be all and end all”.
Mr Juncker evoked the Queen to describe how Brexit helped to make 2016 an “annus horribilis” for the European project.
But during the annual state of the union address, he insisted the “wind is back in Europe’s sails” and countries were knocking on Brussels’ door to do trade deals with the EU.
Setting out hopes for closer integration, Mr Juncker announced plans to increase passport-free movement around the EU, expand use of the euro and boost the number of member states.
But the hour-long speech, which ranged over areas as diverse as the quality of fish fingers to plans to create a super-presidency role, Brexit was given a notably short slot near the end.
Mr Juncker said: “This will be a very sad and tragic moment in our history. We will always regret this, and I think that you will regret it as well, soon.
“Nonetheless we have to respect the will of the British people. But we are going to make progress. We will move on because Brexit isn’t everything, it’s not the future of everything, it’s not the be all and end all.”
In Hartlepool, 69% of voters opted to leave the European Union in the referendum last June.
The claim brought a mixed reaction from readers. Michael Rennie wrote: “I voted for brexit but i think we will definitely regret brexit in the coming years, all because the EU will want revenge rather than good trade deals with the UK. Give it a 10 years and we will all be a lot better off and glad we went through the divorce.”
Mark Andrew Jones commented: “It’s just the kind of silly thing you would expect Jean-Claude to say! Has he got some kind of precognition powers that he can actually see into the future? Or was it some kind of threat that the EU will make sure the UK will regret leaving? He did however say just before that the remaining EU members regret the UK leaving. It’s little wonder everybody is bemused at the moment with all the mixed messages.”
Cliffy Field said: “Sounds like a threat to me, what do you think?”
Chris Smith stated: “He’s right.”
In a letter circulated as he made his speech, Mr Juncker said the past 12 months had been “challenging” for Europe.
He wrote: “2016 was in many ways an ‘annus horribilis’ for the European project. From the Brexit referendum, to the terrorist attacks, to slow growth and continued high unemployment in several of our member states, to the ongoing migration crisis, Europe was challenged in many ways.”
Mr Juncker said the EU is open for trade and since last year “partners all over the world are knocking at our door in order to sign trade agreements with us”.