UK will regret Brexit, EU head declares

World | 14 Sep 2017

The European Union is in a healthier economic state than it's been for more than a decade, and is ready to move on from Brexit, the bloc's top official said yesterday.

Addressing lawmakers at the European Parliament, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU is "bouncing back" after a tough decade that's seen much of the 28-country union mired in an economic crisis, as well as Britain's vote to leave.

"The wind is back in Europe's sail," he said in an upbeat, hour-long annual State of the European Union address in Strasbourg, France.

Juncker, 62, whose commission proposes EU legislation and polices the bloc's laws, said the EU is into its fifth year of economic recovery, with unemployment at a nine-year low.

Since the global financial crisis first bared its teeth a decade ago, the EU project has been dealt a series of blows, most notably Britain's decision last year to leave. It's also had to contend with a series of currencies afflicting the countries - currently 19 - that use the euro as their currency.

However, the eurozone crisis appears to have abated somewhat, and Greece is set to end its bailout era next summer.

With Britain due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, Juncker vowed the bloc would take on no new members in the short-term.

And he dealt a blow to Turkey's hopes of joining Europe's rich club anytime soon.

"Turkey has been moving away from the European Union in leaps and bounds," he said, criticizing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government for arresting journalists and branding EU leaders "fascists and Nazis."

Ankara's attitude, Juncker said, "rules out EU membership for Turkey in the foreseeable future."

As the union comes to terms with losing one of its biggest member states, Juncker called for EU leaders to meet in Romania the day after Britain leaves to chart the bloc's way forward as 27 member states.

Juncker vowed the EU "will move forward once Britain leaves," saying that "Brexit is not everything. It's not the future of Europe."

To cheering British lawmakers celebrating the country's departure, he said: "I think you will regret it quite soon."

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