Juncker rules out special UK deal but insists there’s ‘no deadline’ for Brexit

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker © Francois Lenoir
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker appeared to play both good and bad cop on Monday when he said that Britain could take its time before triggering Article 50, while also stating that the UK will not get “special” treatment.

The former prime minister of Luxembourg smashed any hope of a bespoke membership package for the UK, making clear that if Britain wants to remain in the single market it must accept free movement “without exception or nuance.”

At the same time, Juncker softened his tone on the timeframe within which the UK should trigger Article 50, formalising its withdrawal from the EU.

Speaking on French television, the EC President said Britain will enjoy no special concessions when it negotiates to leave the EU.

No access to the internal market if you do not accept the rules — without exception or nuance — that make up the internal market system,” Juncker said.

Juncker denied he was taking a harsh stance, amid speculation that Brussels wants to make an example of Britain in order to deter other countries from opting to leave the bloc.

It’s not a hard line, it’s common sense. It reflects the philosophy of the European project itself,” he said.

His stance echoes that of French President Francois Hollande, who after talks with UK Prime Minister Theresa May last week said that Britain has to decide whether to stay in the single market and accept free movement or to “have another status.”

Despite his tough words, Juncker appeared to offer Britain an olive branch in the form of more time.

Immediately after the EU referendum, Juncker - along with other top EU figures - called for Britain to trigger Article 50 straight away and begin negotiations to leave the bloc.

Speaking on Monday, the EC president’s tone signaled that Brussels is willing to wait it out.

I would have liked the UK to present us with its resignation letter as soon as possible, because I would have expected that the British, especially those who wanted to leave the EU, would have prepared themselves for this possibility,” Juncker said.

But this is not the case. The British government needs several months to fine-tune its position.