'I'm leaving before the UK does': EC president lobs farewell joke at Brexiteers

PUBLISHED: 14:43 29 November 2019 | UPDATED: 14:46 29 November 2019

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker, outgoing president of the European Commission. Photo: Stefan Rousseau / PA

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker, outgoing president of the European Commission. Photo: Stefan Rousseau / PA

PA Wire/PA Images

The outgoing president of the European Commission has written a farewell article reflecting on his five years in post, and had some choice words for the UK on Brexit.

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Jean-Claude Juncker, who is handing over to Ursula von der Leyen, joked in a piece for Politico's Brussels Playbook that he would be "leaving before the UK does" - but added that he is "not unhappy" about that fact.

"It breaks my heart to see a member of our union leave its midst," he explained.

He said handling Brexit was like "navigating our way through murky waters not of our own making", and joked about the naming of UKTF, the EC's task force assigned towards doing that. "Just be glad we put the TF and the UK in the right order," he said.

MORE: EU Commission chief-to-be shuts down Brexit Party MEPs in spectacular fashion

In Brexit and throughout the EU's many other travails, Juncker said: "I often felt like Europe's family therapist, trying to keep everyone happy and on board."

He pointed out that despite - or maybe because of - Brexit, love for the EU27 is higher than ever.

"Support for the European Union is at an all-time high (according to much beloved Eurobarometer figures)," he wrote. "I would chalk this up in no small part to the debate around Brexit, which highlighted the merits of European membership.

"That people are singing 'Ode to Joy' in the streets of London or that my in-tray is overflowing with love letters from British citizens is surely testament to this."

He repeated an adage that "everyone understands the English language but no-one understands the English" - but also went on to make what seems to be a dig at the UK's idea of Brexit, continuing: "I can, however, personally testify that there are still large segments of the English language that are yet to be fully understood on the Continent. A notable example: nebulous (adjective) /ˈneb.jə.ləs/ (especially of ideas) not clear and having no form."

He was rather more scathing in October when he described the Leave campaign's claims at "bullshit".

WATCH: Juncker hits out at the Brexit 'bullsh*t' peddled by Boris Johnson and other Leave figures

Juncker's successor, Ursula von der Leyen, this week had her Commission approved by EU parliament by 461 votes in favour, 157 against, and 89 abstentions.

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