An open letter drafted by Charles Michel, the president of the EU Council, David Sassoli, the president of the EU Parliament, and Ursula von der Leyen , the president of the EU Commission, outlined their readiness to be “ambitious” in the context of the UK’s impending exit from the economic bloc. They warn that “every choice has a consequence” when noting that the nature of Britain’s future relationship with the EU will depend on decisions “which have yet to be taken”, in a letter published on 31 January.
They describe examples of what they mean by writing:
“Without the free movement of people, there can be no free movement of capital, goods and services. Without a level playing field on environment, labour, taxation and state aid, there cannot be the highest quality access to the single market. Without being a member, you cannot retain the benefits of membership”, they write.
The three presidents express their fondness for the UK and note that while its membership will end on 31 January Britain will “remain part of Europe”. Shared history, geography and other links will inevitably mean that the UK and the EU will be “natural allies” on many issues, the presidents argued.
While noting their deep regret over the Brexit referendum result they confirm that they respect the decision and say that Brexit will mark a “new dawn” for Europe. A united EU will “leverage” its power and internal market to tackle major challenges of the future such as climate change, technological development and great power rivalry, they added.
In a press conference held on the same day, Michel, the EU Council's President, said that Europe's strong values, freedoms and single market will help it chart a positive new future:
It's never a happy moment when someone leaves but we are opening a new chapter.— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) January 31, 2020
We will devote all our energy to building a stronger, more ambitious #EU.
With 27 strong democracies, strong values, freedoms, 22 million businesses, and the biggest single market. #FutureofEurope pic.twitter.com/qEZRkLSgfj
The UK is due to officially exit the EU on 31 January 2020 at 11pm (GMT), after nearly five decades of membership. Boris Johnson set the deadline of 31 December 2020 for finalising negotiations over what its future trading relationship with the EU will look.