Every choice has a consequence, warn EU leaders on Brexit day

MEPs attend a session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire.

MEPs attend a session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

The presidents of the EU's three major institutions have expressed hope for continued strong ties with the UK - but warned there will be consequences for the split.

In a joint letter published in several newspapers across the continent, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, European Council leader Charles Michel and European parliament president David Sassoli said the three bodies would do all in their power to make the EU's future partnership with Britain a success.

But they issued a reminder that the closeness of that partnership would hinge on decisions to be taken in the 11-month transitional period, "because every choice has a consequence".

"Without the free movement of people, there can be no free movement of capital, goods and services," they wrote.

"Without a level playing field on environment, labour, taxation and state aid, there cannot be the highest quality access to the single market.

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"Without being a member, you cannot retain the benefits of membership."

The three presidents said they had "always deeply regretted" the UK's decision to leave, and that they shared a fondness for the UK "which goes far beyond membership of our union".

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"For us," they wrote, "today will inevitably be a day of reflection and mixed emotions - as it will for so many.

"Our thoughts are with all of those who have helped to make the EU what it is today.

"Those who are concerned about their future or disappointed to see the UK leave.

"Those British members of our institutions who helped to shape policies that made lives better for millions of Europeans.

"We will think of the UK and its people, their creativity, ingenuity, culture, and traditions, that have been a vital part of our union's tapestry."

Von der Leyen, Michel and Sassoli said their institutions would still work with the UK on foreign affairs, security and defence with "a common purpose and shared mutual interests" but that "we will do it in different ways".

"We are confident we can build a lasting and meaningful partnership," they wrote.

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