Brexit is a prickly affair, says EU's Juncker

Vienna (AFP) –


Relations between the EU and Britain have always been a bit prickly, but EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker Friday that the Brexit negotiations are beginning to resemble the courtship of two hedgehogs.

"We're not at war with Great Britain," Juncker told the Austrian daily Die Presse in an interview published a day after British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan was rejected as unworkable and unacceptable by the bloc's other 27 members at an informal summit in Salzburg.

"We have to be careful, like two hedgehogs who love each other," Juncker said. "When two hedgehogs embrace, they have to watch out that they don't get scratched."

Juncker insisted that the two sides were "moving closer."

Nevertheless, "the Irish border question is very difficult," he said.

"It's also clear that there can be no leaving the EU while retaining the privileges of the community. Brexit means Brexit," he said.

Asked whether the British people should have another say on the exit deal once it had been agreed, Juncker said May had made it clear in Salzburg "that there will no second referendum.

"Nevertheless, the British parliament must vote on the exit deal, and the EU parliament, as well. And not everything that London likes is liked by the EU parliament. One has to look closely for common ground."

Juncker said the situation between Britain and the EU should not be "overdramatised".

Britain "will remain an important partner in trade and security for the EU. But with the British, we're losing a bit of pragmatism. That is why the exit deeply saddens me," Juncker said.