THE UK’s last European Commissioner, Sir Julian King, has said a second Brexit referendum would be divisive and unpredictable, warning: “Careful what you wish for.”
Senior diplomat Sir Julian is the last commissioner sent to Brussels by Downing Street, having served since 2016. Prior to this, he had stints as British Ambassador to France and Ireland. He told the Sunday Telegraph incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen would inherit a bitterly divided institution, with migration a key concern.
Boris Johnson refused to name a British commissioner to serve in Mrs von der Leyen’s commission in the two months leading up to January 31, the latest Brexit deadline.
Pressed on the subject of Brexit, and specifically a so-called People’s Vote to confirm or reject Boris Johnson’s deal, Sir Julian said he did not support such a move.
He added: “If it happens then you just need to be a little bit careful what you wish for.
“Stopping or even reversing a divorce is not the same as starting the honeymoon again.”
Sir Julian also urged the next UK Government to be willing to meet Brussels halfway it came to trade negotiations, while insisting the European Commission “was not anti-UK”.
He said: “The incoming commission are going to have a challenge.
“We should all wish them well because whatever happens we are still going to be neighbours with the EU.
“There is still tension between the west and the east. This is a deep issue that will take time to address.”
He said the onus was on the UK convince the EU any free trade agreement, which he said should include commitments to security cooperation and research, was in the EU’s interest.
He added: “This place is not anti-UK. It really isn’t but it does seek to defend, protect and promote EU interests.
“That is what it is there for. That’s its job.”
He also had warm words for Jean-Claude Juncker, Mrs von der Leyen’s famously tactile predecessor.
He explained: “He is not a modern manager but he is very human and one of the things I will miss I guess is regular hugs and the occasional kiss.”
Sir Julian stressed the importance of enlarging the EU to include countries previously trapped behind the Iron Curtain.
He said: We actually managed to reach out and embrace over 100 million people who had been left on the wrong side of history.”
Asked whether he thought Britain would ever rejoin the bloc, Mr King said: “I am Britain’s last commissioner.
“There’s certainly going to be a break in the succession of 15 commissioners and it starts this afternoon.
“I won’t have any regrets. It is over. Move on.”