European Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker used English only when speaking about the British withdrawal from the European Union (EU) during his EU State of the Union address on Wednesday. The address was crafted in the minutest detail in the days preceding the ceremony. The head of the EU executive wrote it himself, making modifications up to the last minute, according to a European source. And despite his detailed knowledge of many of the Union’s national languages, Juncker, who hails from Luxembourg, surrounded himself with native speakers for the translation of the address to avoid any translation mishaps.
On the British withdrawal from the EU (Brexit), Juncker reiterated his respect for Britain’s choice, which he said the EU regretted deeply, but asked the government of Theresa May to understand that “if you leave the Union, you are of course no longer part of our single market, and certainly not only in the parts of it you choose.”
Regarding the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, he warned that should the British Government “walk away from its responsibilities under the Good Friday agreement, it is not the European Union, it is Brexit that risks making the border more visible in Northern Ireland.”
However, Juncker stressed that the United Kingdom would always be a very close neighbour and partner in political, economic and security terms.