Parliament’s president Antonio Tajani has become the latest EU chief to hold out an olive branch to the UK.
The Italian MEP said, “If the UK wants to change its position on Brexit, we are happy with that.”
His comments follow similar sentiments voiced in recent days by European Council president Donald Tusk and his European Commission counterpart Jean-Claude Juncker.
Both appeared to lay out the welcome mat to the UK even though British prime minister Theresa May has ruled out the prospect of halting Brexit.
Tajani, who was speaking at a news conference, however struck a tough line over the thorny Irish border issue.
He pointed out, “[The European] Parliament has the final say on any Brexit deal and I can assure you that it will only agree to a deal that fully supports the Good Friday Agreement.”
He was appearing at a press conference with Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar who indicated that Ireland will support an increase in the EU budget and would be willing to make a bigger contribution to EU coffers.
He also explained why he had spoken about his own family in replying to UKIP’s Nigel Farage during a plenary debate earlier in the day.
“If the UK wants to change its position on Brexit, we are happy with that” European Parliament president Antonio Tajani
“I did this because I care what happens to the UK and I deeply regret the impact Brexit will have on young people who will lose their right to EU citizenship and Erasmus and all the wonderful things the EU brings us.
“But it is not possible to have these benefits without also accepting the responsibilities that go with it.”
In reply to what Farage had inferred, he said, “No, there are no plots on Brexit – I am a friend of the UK but the matter of a possible second referendum is for the UK to decide alone. We have had repeat votes on referenda in Ireland in the past and it is not anti-democratic to have a second vote but it would not be helpful or constructive for me to comment on this.”
Earlier, Farage had told Varadkar that he was “very popular here” [in the European Parliament] and had received a “standing ovation from left and centre and right, with Junker looking joyous.”
"I care what happens to the UK and I deeply regret the impact Brexit will have on young people who will lose their right to EU citizenship and Erasmus and all the wonderful things the EU brings us" Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar
Farage told him, “In fact this European project could have no greater, stronger devotee for a militarised, expansionist United States of Europe. You of course worked here as a young man, you’re a devotee. In fact we should call you, I think a European unionist whatever the cost to Ireland may be. Normally of course small countries count for nothing here, its run by the big boys but right at the minute you’re important and you’re useful because you have helped with the obstructionism and the delay of Brexit.”
Farage, continued, “On the Good Friday Agreement where as you know the EU had little or nothing to do with it. They were written in at a later stage but of course as everyone knows nothing binds either side to continued membership of the Union and you know the UK government intends to fully uphold it.”
The former UKIP leader, sitting close to the Irish PM, told him, “The border issue has been put up as a problem but I think you’re predecessor Bertie Ahern has said look, in practical terms we don’t face a problem. There has been a Common Travel Area between us, of course, for decades but it is on trade where that border could in some ways be challenged.
“And of course when you think that nearly 50 per cent of exports from Irish owned companies go to the UK and in agriculture in some sectors it’s as high as 90 per cent you potentially have quite a lot to lose.
"You are part, of course, of a big attempt here and elsewhere to frustrate and to attempt to overturn Brexit" Former UKIP Leader Nigel Farage
“And yet despite the fact that no one should be fighting harder for a genuine rounded trade deal than you that doesn’t appear to be the case. In fact I’d even go further and say that if there was no trade deal between the EU and the UK an exception should be made for Ireland because of political sensitivity and it’s something that the World Trade Organisation, I have no doubt, would back up. And yet it seems to me that you’re prepared to put you’re devotion to the European project above the interest of Irish farmers and other companies to. And I wonder why?”
Farage concluded, “Well let’s cast our minds back a short distance to the rejection of the Lisbon treaty by the Irish. A second referendum forced on their people. Conducted on the most unfair, undemocratic lines that I have ever seen. You are part, of course, of a big attempt here and elsewhere to frustrate and to attempt to overturn Brexit.
“You don’t want Britain to leave because you know if you do others will leave to. And I would just say this to you. I don’t want a second referendum on Brexit. Absolutely not but I fear that you are all working together with Tony Blair and Nick Clegg to make sure we get the worst possible deal. I say that because I have seen it all before. The difference is if you force the Brits to do it again it will be a different outcome.”