European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said yesterday (18 January) that the Commission did not want to punish Britain in the Brexit negotiations. Mr. Juncker stated that the executive was not “in a hostile mood” after British Prime Minister Theresa May had announced that her country will be opting for the so-called “hard Brexit“ that is withdrawing also from the EU’s single market. In Mrs. May’s speech on Tuesday (17 January), she confirmed that Britain would leave the world’s biggest market and that her country would seek greater control over immigration including immigration from Europe.
“There are some voices calling for a punitive deal that punishes Britain and discourages other countries from taking the same path,” she said and added that “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.” Mrs. May also said that punishing Britain would be a “calamitous act of self-harm for the EU”, after which she threatened to cut corporate tax rates to attract investment to the UK. “We want a fair deal with Britain but a fair deal means a fair deal for the EU too,” Mr. Juncker further said, speaking at a Strasbourg press conference after addressing the European Parliament.
The early Brexit negotiations will be chaired by Malta as it currently holds the rotating six-month EU Presidency. Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta, appealed “to all the [EU] institutions to adopt a consistent approach aimed at safeguarding the European project and not punishing any particular country.” Both EU leaders promised that there would be a “balanced“ Brexit settlement but reminded that the EU would not open any negotiations until London triggers Article 50, thus formally initiating the process of withdrawal.