The United Kingdom should rejoin the European Union to “fix” Brexit, Ursula von der Leyen has said, after Labour pledged to forge closer ties with the bloc if elected.
The European Commission president said “we goofed it up” when asked if Britain could ever reverse Brexit on Tuesday night in Brussels.
She was speakling amid much improved UK relations since the signing of Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland in February and after Nexit-backing Geert Wilders’ shock victory in Dutch elections last week.
“First of all, thank God. With the Windsor agreement, we had a new beginning for old friends. Very important,” Mrs von der Leyen said at an event hosted by the Politico website.
“And then I must say, I keep telling my children, you have to fix it. We goofed it up. You have to fix it. So I think here, too, the direction of travel, my personal opinion is clear.”
There is no expectation that the UK will ask to rejoin the EU anytime soon, which is a lengthy and complex process that can take many years.
But poll-leading Sir Keir Starmer has promised a major rewrite of the post-Brexit trading relationship if Labour wins a general election, which is expected to be held next year.
EU will enforce Brussels rules on UK
Labour insists Britain won’t be a “rule taker” if it negotiates a new deal.
But the EU will demand the UK align with Brussels rules in return for an agreement on animal and plant health standards.
That veterinary deal would remove red tape on British trade with the EU and Northern Ireland but was rejected by the Tories on sovereignty grounds.
Mr Sunak moved to repair strained relations with the EU after he became prime minister in October 2022.
He calculated that a closer relationship was necessary for economic reasons during the cost of living crisis and for geopolitical reasons after Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
The UK and EU were at loggerheads over the Irish Sea border until the Windsor Framework was agreed, which calmed tension that led to threats of a trade war.
Since then, Brussels has approved UK post-Brexit participation of Horizon, its flagship research programme, and its Copernicus space programme.
DUP and government negociations in ‘final final stages’
Mr Sunak, a Brexiteer, is regarded with suspicion by some Tory backbenchers, who fear he will sacrifice sovereignty which was hard won in the tough Brexit negotiations.
His Windsor Framework deal did not convince the DUP to drop their boycott of Stormont, which has now lasted 21 months and delayed action on the economy and healthcare.
Negotiations between the DUP and the Government were now in their “final, final stages”, Chris Heaton-Harris, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said on Tuesday night.