Ursula von der Leyen: 'Tone and attitude' in Brexit will be 'crucial'

European Commission President-designate, Ursula von der Leyen, wants the UK to remain in the European Union, but says that in the event of the UK's departure, the “tone and attitude” with which Brexit is carried out will be “crucial”.

Ska Keller, Philippe Lamberts and Ursula von der Leyen | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

10 Jul 2019

During a hearing on Wednesday with Parliament’s Renew Europe group to drum up support for her candidacy as European Commission President ahead of a key Parliament vote on her appointment next week, von der Leyen said “I’m a strong believer in Remain.”

“We all know that we want you to remain, but I know how facts are. I think it is very important that the way things go on – I hope for good development – but in case we’re going to have a Brexit, I’m convinced it is crucial how the tone is and the attitude with which Brexit happens.”

“Brexit is not the end of something – Brexit is the beginning of future relations and it’s of absolute importance that we will have good cooperation and good relations. I still hope that you remain and it is in our interest to have you sort things out.”


She added, “We do have an agreement - which hasn’t been signed on both sides - and we do have the backstop, and I think it’s a good deal, but it’s your responsibility and your noble task to sort things out.”

Responding to a question on the backstop from Irish MEP Billy Kelleher, von der Leyen said, “The backstop is of utmost importance. Having the backstop in the Brexit deal is precious, important, and has to be defended.”

In a subsequent hearing on Wednesday, this time with the Greens group, UK MEP Molly Scott Cato said that although not all of von der Leyen’s answers had been received “very warmly” during the hearing, she was “delighted to hear” von der Leyen express the hope that Brexit never happens, adding, “because I agree with you about that.”

In response to the question “what are you going to do to help the majority of Brits who now want to stay in the EU to succeed in stopping Brexit?” von der Leyen said, “If the UK needs more time we should give it to them.”

“The backstop is of utmost importance. Having the backstop in the Brexit deal is precious, important, and has to be defended”

Scottish MEP Alyn Smith then asked a follow-up question, asking von der Leyen if she would confirm whether the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 “up to the very last minute, without political consequences.”

Von der Leyen replied, “Yes, the door is open because we want you in. The political consequences are way harder when it comes to the other way around. As we’ve said, we want you in. We are prepared for whatever happens, but if we are to choose, we want you in.”

She added, “I have a child studying in the UK, so I know first-hand how the debates are. Respect and good luck.”

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