Juncker plans new vision for Europe (with no mention of Brexit)

PMQs Prime Minsters Questions Commons

Juncker plans new vision for Europe (with no mention of Brexit)

Europe should have a minister of finance and economy as well as its own monetary fund, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday in a speech outlining his agenda for the bloc.

Addressing French and German ideas of creating a separate budget for the euro zone, on top of the existing long-term European Union budget, and a separate euro zone parliament, alongside the existing European Union parliament, Juncker rejected both.

He called for closer economic and defence co-operation among member states, including more support for states preparing to join the euro, and reforms to the single market. Meanwhile, Juncker put a final stamp on the EU's recently revived engagement in the Balkans, where Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Kosovo all want to join the European Union one day. However, the likes of Poland and Sweden are wary politically of being drawn into the single currency. This is the situation in countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where British state pension payments to expats are not increased each year in line with inflation.

The yearly speech is an opportunity for the Commission president to explain his views on the European Union and lay out his priorities for the year ahead.

Juncker took a swipe at Poland and Hungary - which have been at odds with Brussels over democratic standards - saying European Union countries should not be allowed to breach the "rule of law".

But lawmakers, both in Labour and Mrs May's governing Conservative Party, expressed fears the government would make substantial changes to legislation without consulting Parliament - a charge the government has denied.

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Mr Juncker unveiled plans for a summit to be held on March 30 2019 - the day after the United Kingdom leaves - in order to discuss the future of the bloc. Mr Junker noted the wrapping up of a trade deal with Canada during the a year ago, and negotiations on deals with Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

The EU Commission President aims to restore the EU's credibility on the global stage as being free to strike trade deals unhampered by pesky regional assemblies.

He also said officials had set out proposals on how British armed forces would continue to work with Europe on security once the country leaves the bloc.

It will be Mr Juncker's last real chance to lay out his policy agenda for the European Union.

Other third parties such as Norway contribute to European Union missions, but the Ministry of Defence appears to be proposing a more structural cooperation. Juncker wants states to make good on pledges of aid to Africa to promote growth and slow emigration.

Juncker's speech was full of calls for "more Europe", especially his suggestion that Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia should all finally become full members of the Schengen zone. This anger is echoed by my friend Joe, who's from Scotland, which had the highest percentage of remain votes than any other region in the UK.

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