German Eurocrat Nominee 'Hopes' UK Stays in EU

Elias Hubbard
July 11, 2019

Conservative German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen took questions from EU lawmakers in Brussels on Wednesday after her nomination to lead the European Commission was announced last week.

Mrs von der Leyen, who is now the German defence minister, is due to take over from Jean-Claude Juncker on 1 November if approved by parliament.

Making her pitch to MEPs, Von der Leyen emphasised her green credentials while also arguing that the European Union needed to be more assertive in the world - a traditional preoccupation of the centrist group.

"I still hope you remain", she said, warning the British authorities to "sort its side of things on Brexit".

The conservative German defense minister may still win support of the full parliament next week, but rejection by the Greens leaves her relying more on nationalists in eastern Europe who like her tough stance on Russian Federation.

"I think it's a good deal but it is your responsibility and your noble task to sort things out", Mrs von der Leyen added. "I think it is very important that the way things go on - I hope for good development - but in case we're going to have a Brexit, I'm convinced it is crucial how the tone is and the attitude with which Brexit happens".

The latter comment was made in reference to the controversial Irish backstop, which to date the Europeans say they will not renegotiate, but which the United Kingdom fears could either lock it in regulatory alignment with the EU permanently - preventing the United Kingdom making future independent trade deals - or threaten the union if Northern Ireland remains in the Customs Union whilst Great Britain diverges after the implementation period. However, this depends on the EU's member states appointing women to be their commissioners - an appeal many ignored in 2014.

The meetings are part of an overall offensive to get MEPs next week to vote in favour of her appointment to lead the EU Commission. A vote on von der Leyen's candidacy could come as soon as Tuesday. "That was my first impression of Europe", she said.

What exactly did she say about Brexit?

Many MEPs were frustrated that national leaders chose her over some of the frontrunners from the biggest political groupings in the new parliament, following the elections in May.

The Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld asked whether she would be tougher in acting against violations of the rule of law and democracy than the outgoing commission, adding it was "remarkable" that Poland and Hungary had supported Von der Leyen's nomination.

Iratxe Garcia of Spain, who leads the Socialist and Democrat (S&D) group, has said she could not speak for her entire group on whether or not they would vote in favor of von der Leyen.

Ms von der Leyen also claimed the EU's door remains open to Britain, if politicians in Westminster decide to revoke the bloc's Article 50 exit clause.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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