BRUSSELS: There is still a concern that Britain may leave the European Union without a deal to smooth the way, the bloc’s chief executive said on Saturday, urging Britain to take advantage of a six-month delay to work out the details of its departure. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made the comments in an interview with German newspaper FUNKE Mediengruppe, a week after EU leaders gave Britain six months more to exit the EU. “Nobody knows how Brexit will end. This is creating great uncertainty. There is still a fear that there will be a hard Brexit without any withdrawal treaty arrangements,” Juncker said, citing the long-term negative impact on Europe’s economy.
Even though the extension to Oct 31 offers little clarity on when, how or even if Brexit will happen, Britain should use the time wisely, he said.
“I hope that the British will make use of this time and not waste it again. We cannot keep on putting off the withdrawal date indefinitely. The best solution would be for the British to adopt the Withdrawal Agreement during the extra time that has been agreed,” Juncker said.
The withdrawal deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May with the EU has been rejected three times by the British parliament.
Juncker, who is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump at the G20 meeting in Osaka in June, predicted a “lively discussion” ahead.
“The last discussion lasted 6 hours and it is good that you were not there,” Juncker said, referring to raised voices at his last talks with Trump.
Trade relations between the United States and the EU have soured in recent months after Washington hit the bloc with tariffs and threatened more. Asked about possible new tariffs ahead of the G20 meeting, Juncker counselled patience.
He called on Germany and other countries to spend more to boost growth in the bloc, which is expected to see a slowing economy, a day after German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz ruled out taking on new debt to stimulate his country’s anaemic growth.
“However, Germany should use its financial leeway to further reduce public debt and boost investment. This also includes eliminating bureaucratic hurdles,” Juncker said.
He also cautioned there was a risk of foreign manipulation around next month’s European Parliament elections where eurosceptic groups are expected to gain ground. — Reuters
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Santa Cruz, Portugal: A group of 12 Germans who were injured in a deadly Madeira bus crash headed home on Saturday aboard a German medically-equipped military plane, an AFP reporter said.
Their tourist bus crashed on the Portuguese holiday island on Wednesday, killing 29 passengers, all of them German.
Of the 16 injured survivors of the crash, 14 were also German.
The aircraft was bound for Cologne in western Germany, from where it had flown in on Saturday morning, a health official for the Madeira region said.
One injured German had already been flown home on Friday and another, too badly hurt to fly, has been kept in intensive care.
Investigators are still trying to determine why the vehicle crashed off the road before ending up mangled on a hillside near the town of Canico.
Portuguese public TV RTP reported Friday that the bus’s accelerator was thought to have been stuck and that the driver might have tried to stop the vehicle by hitting a wall.
Advancing another theory, a German holidaymaker in his 60s who escaped with a broken rib told Portuguese television: “I think the brakes were gone, I cannot imagine another reason” for the crash. His wife said some passengers were thrown through the windows when the bus began to roll over. — AFP