European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sought to present a bright future for the European Union after the United Kingdom leaves in 2019, but warned that Britain "will regret" the move as much as the EU will. "We will always regret this - and I think that you will regret it as well soon, if I might say", Juncker told members of the European Parliament, including Brexit architect Nigel Farage.
"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.
He looked ahead to the day after Britain's departure on March 29, 2019, saying Europe should "throw off the bowlines, sail away from the harbour" - and have another summit, in Romania.
In stark contrast to the previous two years, dominated by existential fears raised by the Greek debt crisis, migrants crossing the Mediterranean in the hundreds of thousands, and Britain's 2016 Brexit vote, officials said Juncker wants the European Union to seize a window of opportunity to strengthen its integration. Turkey has been instrumental in a deal to help stem the flow of migrants between the Middle East and the EU. "I appeal today to the powers that be in Turkey: let our journalists go, and not just our journalists".
Turkey's own long-stalled membership bid was ruled out "for the forseeable future" as a result of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's crackdown following a coup attempt a year ago, he said.
GETTY Keir Starmer has described the bill as'flawed
Its economic growth has outpaced that of the United States for the past two years and unemployment, while still far too high in many European countries, particularly among young people, is at a nine-year low overall. "Both sides settled on the date after discussions between senior officials in recognition that more time for consultation would give negotiators the flexibility to make progress in the September round", the representative said in a statement given to Sputnik.
"Doing so would overnight end our security relationship with Europe, putting our citizens and theirs at risk. They belong where freedom of expression reigns", Juncker said.
He also hailed progress that had been made in the migrants crisis; over the previous year numbers of people coming into Europe through the eastern channel through Turkey and Greece had reduced by 97%, while in August numbers coming through Italy - whom he singled out for special praise for their "perseverance and generosity" - had gone done by 81% from the same month in 2016.
Juncker also said he will propose the establishment of a pan-European cybersecurity agency as online attacks around the world mount.
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