EU warns UK there is no strength in 'splendid isolation'

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen giving a press statement on the future of Europe after Brexit at the European Parliament in Brussels, on Jan 31, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The European Union's three top officials gathered on Friday (Jan 31) to promise a new dawn for their bloc and warn Britain that it would lose the benefits of close ties after Brexit.

"We want to have the best possible relationship with the United Kingdom, but it will never be as good as membership," European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.

"Our union has gained political impetus and has become a global economic powerhouse," she said, appearing with EU Council President Charles Michel and European Parliament speaker David Sassoli.

"Our experience has taught us that strength does not lie in splendid isolation, but in our unique union," she said.

The phrase "splendid isolation" is associated with Britain's 19th century foreign policy of standing aloof from the politics of the European mainland, while tending to a global trading empire.

Britain is due to leave the European Union at 2300 GMT - midnight in Brussels and 11pm in London - but will remain under EU rules for trade, travel and business during an 11-month transition.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to reveal next week Britain's negotiating priorities for a future trade deal, and Von der Leyen confirmed that Brussels will too.

"On Monday, we will open a new page in our history," she said. "The Commission will present its position for the negotiations," she told reporters.

"We want the best partnership possible with the United Kingdom but it's clear that there will always be a difference. Being a member of the European Union counts. There is strength in a union."

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