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Sunak rejects 'Brexit reversal' comments

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-12-01 09:29

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reacts as he speaks to journalists during a visit of a medical training center at the University of Surrey in Guildford, southern England, on Nov 30, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

The United Kingdom's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has rejected the idea of reversing, or "fixing", the nation's exit from the European Union, in response to comments made by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

In an interview with Politico at an event in Brussels earlier this week, von der Leyen said young Britons could still reverse the exit, known widely as Brexit, by deciding to re-join the EU in the years ahead.

Sunak's spokesperson stated on Wednesday that the prime minister did not believe Brexit was in any danger.

The spokesperson said: "It's through our Brexit freedoms that we are, right now, considering how to further strengthen our migration system. It is through our Brexit freedoms we are ensuring patients in the UK can get access to medicines faster, that there is improved animal welfare. That is very much what we are focused on.

"We have a prime minister that championed Brexit before it was in his career interests to do so because he believes in it passionately. We are very focused on making a success of it."

Von der Leyen said in her interview it was up to the next generation to "fix" the mistakes made by UK lawmakers regarding Brexit.

Asked if the UK could ever rejoin the EU, she said: "I must say, I keep telling my children: 'You have to fix it. We goofed it up, you have to fix it.'"

The Brussels chief added: "So, I think here too, the direction of travel — my personal opinion — is clear."

Sunak and von der Leyen have maintained a friendly relationship following their collaboration to enhance the Northern Ireland deal and the UK's participation in the Horizon research-funding program, reported The Guardian newspaper.

Von der Leyen told Politico the Windsor Agreement on Northern Ireland was an important step and "a new beginning for old friends".

According to recent surveys by Deltapoll, a majority of UK voters would support rejoining the EU if a referendum was held, with 48 percent in favor of rejoining and 36 percent in favor of staying out.

The UK opposition Labour Party, which has a wide lead in the latest opinion polls and is poised to secure a majority government in the next general election due to be held before the end of January 2025, intends to foster closer connections with Europe but has also ruled out rejoining the single market or allowing the free movement of people from the EU into the UK.

In response to von der Leyen's comments, a spokesperson for Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said on Wednesday: "We're not rejoining the single market or customs union. We're not returning to freedom of movement.

"Of course, we want a good working relationship with the European Union, we want to improve some of the issues there are on subjects like trade, but no, we're not rejoining in any form."

Following his appointment as foreign secretary, former prime minister David Cameron has called for the UK to become a "friend, a neighbor, and the most exceptional collaborator" for the EU.

On Wednesday, Cameron was in Brussels to meet with European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, who is responsible for the bloc's Brexit affairs.

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