Juncker exposed as former EU chief admits he ‘made bets’ UK would vote to leave bloc

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The former European Commission president has said he was not surprised by the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum and expected the British people to vote to leave the bloc. Mr Juncker, who was replaced by Ursula von der Leyen late last year, even admitted to placing bets on the outcome of the nationwide vote.

In a bombshell interview with Austrian magazine, Profil, Mr Juncker insisted Britain was always going to vote to leave the EU, as the country had long criticised the bloc.

He said: “I was not surprised by the result of the referendum.

“I made bets here in the house, for example, with my British Commission colleague.

“Everyone was convinced, including the British Prime Minister Cameron, with whom I negotiated a lot at the time that we would win this referendum.

“I always said: You never win that.

“If you talk badly about Europe for more than 40 years, then you shouldn’t be surprised that it happens.”

Mr Juncker also claimed Britain had only ever been interested in the economic power of the EU’s single market.

He said: “The British, across all parties, Major, Blair, I have seen many, for them the economy was always important.

“The rest was only talked about negatively in the UK. The British were only for the single market.

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“They were enthusiastic supporters of the expansion to Eastern and Central Europe – for market reasons.”

During the interview Mr Juncker also weighed in on the current state of post-Brexit trade talks, and said he believed the UK Government is purposefully trying to force a no deal outcome.

The former EU chief said the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has hinted a no deal Brexit is becoming the UK’s preferred choice.

Mr Juncker said: “My friend Michel Barnier, whom I had made chief negotiator, gives me the impression that the British government is moving very purposefully towards a no-deal.”

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But despite these claims by the former EU chiefs, a Downing Street spokesman has said the two sides will attempt to engage constructively in the talks.

He said: “Our position on our sovereignty, laws and fisheries is clear, we will not give up our rights as an independent state.

“We will continue to engage constructively with the EU on these key issues and will work hard to reach the broad outline of an agreement, but as we have been clear all along we are not asking for a special, bespoke or unique deal.”

Brexit talks resumed today as the two sides attempt to thrash out a deal before the end of the year.

The EU has said the trade talks must have finished by October, to allow the 27 member states sufficient time to ratify the deal.

The UK Government has agreed with this assertion, with a No10 spokesman saying: “We don’t want talks to drag on into the autumn and want to make progress as quickly as possible in order to give certainty and clarity to business.”

David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, will meet his counterpart today before trying to negotiate on the areas the two sides still fervently disagree on.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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