Jean-Claude Juncker last night faced ridicule after he claimed Britain will ‘soon regret’ Brexit while revealing plans for a massive Brussels power grab and even more migration.
The European Commission president insisted ‘the wind is back in Europe’s sails’ as he set out his dream for a European super-state with an army, an intelligence agency, the ability to set taxes, and a President of Europe at its helm.
Mr Juncker said the EU should be expanded to include more states in the Balkans and increase the number of countries that use the euro and are part of the bloc’s Schengen border-free travel area.
Despite the migration crisis creating havoc across the continent, he said it was a ‘necessity’ to open up more routes for people wanting to move to Europe.
But critics immediately dismissed his blueprint for a ‘United States of Europe’, with former Ukip leader Nigel Farage proclaiming: ‘Thank God we’re leaving!’
Mr Juncker, a former prime minister of Luxembourg, said the EU had been left ‘battered and bruised’ by Britain’s decision to leave.
But instead of taking the opportunity to rethink plans for further integration between member states, he insisted they should ‘finish the job’.
‘I hear those who say we should not rock the boat now that things have started to get better, but now is not the time to err on the side of caution,’ he said in his hour-long state of the union address to MEPs in Strasbourg.
‘We now have a window of opportunity but it will not stay open for ever. Let us make the most of the momentum, catch the wind in our sails.
‘As Mark Twain wrote, years from now we will be more disappointed by the things we did not do, than by the ones we did.
‘Now is the time to build a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe for 2025.’
When Britain left the EU in March 2019, Mr Juncker said it will be a ‘very sad and tragic moment in our history… but we will move on’.
‘We will always regret this, and I think that you will regret it as well, soon,’ he said. ‘Brexit isn’t everything, it’s not the future of everything, it’s not the be-all and end-all.’
Mr Farage said Mr Juncker’s address was ‘the most open, honest and truly worrying’ speech he had heard in his time as an MEP.
‘The message is very clear,’ he added. ‘Brexit has happened, full steam ahead.’
Addressing the Parliament in response to Mr Juncker’s speech, Mr Farage said: ‘All I can say is, “Thank God we’re leaving”. You have learned nothing from Brexit.’
Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman denounced Mr Juncker’s plan as ‘federalism, red in tooth and claw’, while colleague Syed Kamall said the EU was sailing ‘towards a United States of Europe’.
Mr Juncker said EU leaders should gather in the Romanian city of Sibiu on March 30, 2019, the day after Brexit, to prepare for a new future without Britain.
‘Europe only moves forward when it is bold,’ he said. ‘The single market, Schengen and the single currency were all written off as pipe dreams before they happened. And yet these three ambitious projects are now a reality.
‘We must complete the job now that the sun is shining and whilst it still is. Because when the next clouds appear on the horizon – and they will – it will be too late.’ Mr Juncker said welcoming more migrants to Europe was a ‘necessity’ because it was ‘a continent getting older’.
÷ A powerful new ‘President of Europe’
The roles of the European Commission president and European Council president will be combined so there is a single all-powerful figurehead in charge ofthe bloc
÷ Extension of the euro
All EU countries will be expected to join the single currency, banking union and Schengen Zone, where countries remove all borders between each other
÷ Fully fledged EU army
A joint defence fund will be created so countries across the continent can buy military assets such as helicopters together. A ‘proper’ European defence union will be created by 2025.
÷ Never-ending EU expansion
Countries in the Western Balkans will be invited to join. Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Kosovo have all requested membership.
÷ Even more migrants
More people will be encouraged to move to the continent, with plans for a new scheme for how migrants can legally move to Europe expected within weeks.
÷ Changing taxation rules
Member states will no longer get a veto over European tax rules. There are plans for EU-wide corporation tax and VAT rates.
÷ EU finance minister
A European Economy and Finance minister will be appointed to oversee the Eurozone.
‘Europe is not a fortress and must never become one,’ he argued.
New proposals on the ‘opening up of paths of legal migration’ will be set out in the coming weeks, Mr Juncker said. He also demanded the establishment of a Brussels-based intelligence agency to tackle terrorism and a ‘proper’ European defence union.
Mr Juncker called for the use of the euro and membership of the Schengen Zone, which abolished borders between some European countries, to become standard for all EU member states.
He said it was ‘high time’ Romania and Bulgaria were included in the passport-free travel area and Croatia should follow soon.
Mr Juncker said the euro was destined to become the common currency of the ‘entire’ EU with a new finance minister for the whole of the continent.
At present, Denmark and the UK have an ‘opt out’ from the euro, while Sweden, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary are yet to join.
He also called for tax reforms, urging the use of rules that limit governments’ veto powers.
Mr Juncker, who as Commission president heads the EU’s executive, said after he left the post it should be made more powerful by merging it with the job of European Council president.
‘The European landscape would be clearer and more understandable if the European ship was steered by a single captain,’ Mr Juncker said.
Downing Street last night rejected Mr Juncker’s suggestion that the country will regret leaving the EU.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘What we are absolutely focused on is making the best of the opportunities provided by Brexit. We are working towards an ambitious free trade deal and securing a deep and special partnership with the EU.’
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith denounced Mr Juncker’s speech as ‘bar-room utterances’.
But surprise, surprise, here's what he DIDN'T say
By Alex Brummer, City Editor
He may have blown the EU’s trumpet until he was blue in the face, but what about the things Jean-Claude Juncker didn’t say in his grandstanding speech? ALEX BRUMMER offers a reminder of the economic and social crises that threaten to tear the eurozone apart.
Yesterday the UK reported unemployment has fallen to 4.3 per cent of the workforce – with just 1.46 million on the dole, a 42-year low. The eurozone equivalent is 9.1 per cent of the workforce. In France, the jobless rate in July stood at 9.8 per cent of the workforce, in Italy 11.3 per cent and in Greece 21.7 per cent.
What is unconscionable are the horrendous levels of youth unemployment, condemning generations of young Europeans to lives without hope. In Greece, some 44.4 per cent of young people are without work, in Italy 35.5 per cent, in Spain 38.6 per cent and in France 23.4 per cent. It may take decades of economic expansion to eliminate the unacceptable levels of joblessness across the region.
A decade after the financial crisis, the European banking system is still struggling to recover. Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest, has become the most fined bank in Europe, paying the Americans £6 billion last year for malpractice, and handing the Russians penalties for money laundering.
The Italian system is in crisis, its banks weighed down with £307bn of bad debts. US investment bank Morgan Stanley estimates it could take ten years simply to reduce the levels of bad loans in Italy to the average across the EU. Efforts by the Italian government to repair its own banking system have been thwarted by EU regulators because of ridiculous rules restricting state aid. The deep-seated problems of the European banking system are a severe block on a sustained economic success story.
The current recovery in European output is being supported by the ‘crack cocaine’ of the financial system – the printing of billions of euros known as quantitative easing. European Central Bank president Mario Draghi is printing 600 billion euros a month in an effort to get the eurozone economies moving by oiling the wheels with credit, but this can drive up inflation and encourage debt. Despite German pressure to pull back or stop, he is refusing to turn off the tap for fear the eurozone economies will tank.
The virtually unprecedented surge of immigration from the Middle East and Africa has not only sparked huge social pressures, but seen the rise of hard Right-wing parties including the Five Star movement in Italy, and the violent and destructive Golden Dawn in Greece. Worse, mass migration has opened schisms between several old Eastern bloc countries and the bureaucrats of Brussels, who brought legal proceedings against Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic after they refused to be part of an EU-wide settlement plan for 160,000 immigrants.
Club Med stragglers
Germany remains deeply frustrated with the profligacy of the eurozone’s weaker members such as Italy and Greece in the so-called Club Med region. Greece’s inability to meet its debt payments sparked the 2010 crisis in the single currency, which almost swept the whole EU edifice into the Mediterranean – and the situation hasn’t improved much since then.
German car industry
The traditional driver of Germany’s industrial might – and thus its economic stability – has been undermined by a series of scandals. Volkswagen’s in disgrace for its cheating on emissions tests, and has so far paid £17bn in fines. VW, BMW and others have also been engaged in a cartel which kept the price of car parts too high. And now the German motor industry is falling behind that of the US, China and UK-based manufacturers in the embrace of electric and hybrid vehicles.
French union strife
To his credit, France’s callow president Emanuel Macron is seeking to liberalise France’s restrictive labour markets. But optimism is turning to chaos this week as union protesters, farmers and others take to the streets. There seems little danger of reforming the sclerotic French state any time soon.
Europe has virtually no capacity to raise new equity because of the feeble state of the financial system. Efforts by Frankfurt and Paris to lure bankers from London to set up alternative financial centres are also foundering. London remains the world’s top financial centre, and only ten of the top 40 global banks in London have bothered to seek banking licences on the Continent.
This means that commerce in a post-Brexit Europe will be highly dependent on British offices if businesses and economies are to raise the cash they need to recover and expand.