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EU hopes to keep Britain 'close' after Brexit vote: Juncker

By AFP

Added 13th July 2016 02:04 PM

"I want for relations with Britain to be as close as possible -- I will not negotiate with Britain in a hostile mood," he told reporters in Beijing.

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European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker. Photo/AFP

"I want for relations with Britain to be as close as possible -- I will not negotiate with Britain in a hostile mood," he told reporters in Beijing.

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday he hoped relations with Britain could be "as close as possible" despite the country's vote to leave the bloc.

"I want for relations with Britain to be as close as possible -- I will not negotiate with Britain in a hostile mood," he told reporters in Beijing.

But he repeated the grouping's stance that "there will be no negotiations at any level" before London formally triggers the Article 50 mechanism to leave.

His comments came as Theresa May prepared to become Britain's second female prime minister, after David Cameron steps down in the wake of the seismic referendum.

Juncker -- who had a famously antagonistic relationship with Cameron in the run up to his appointment as Commission chief -- said he would "miss" the outgoing prime minister because of their "excellent professional relationship".

He added that he "looked forward to meeting" May.

European leaders have asked London to quickly formalise its divorce from the EU but May has indicated she will not be rushed.

European Union President Donald Tusk -- sitting beside Juncker at a press conference following an EU-China business forum -- added that "after this so called divorce procedure the UK will remain our closest partner".

Juncker sought to calm fears over Brexit, telling the forum that "Europe with 27 (member countries) is the second economic zone in the world and will remain so. She will remain the world’s leading market".

Analysts say China has not welcomed the turmoil in world markets caused by the Brexit vote, but could benefit strategically in the long term from a more divided Europe.

At the business forum China's Premier Li Keqiang said: "We believe that the EU and Britain will take a smooth course."

In an apparent joke, Li added that Juncker "respects the multiplicity of EU cultures, (he) just spoke in French, and perhaps next time will speak in German".

 

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