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Jean-Claude Juncker

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The Brexit movement in Britain and the increasing popularity of right-wing parties in other European nations are all targeting the bureaucrats in the Brussels headquarters of the European Union.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was asked in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun to address the widespread dissatisfaction among Europeans who do not want to have their lives determined by EU bureaucrats.

He was asked to comment on the belief that those bureaucrats are an elite class whose main goal is to usurp the state sovereignty of member nations.

Juncker, who will step down this autumn, was also asked about the EU's relationship with the United States and Japan.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Question: Do you have any regret at not being able to prevent the decision by the national referendum in Britain in 2016 to leave the EU?

Juncker: (David Cameron), the then British prime minister, did not want to have us interfering in the referendum campaign. I agreed that we should not interfere but that was a major mistake. Because of all the lies which have been told to people during this referendum campaign, it would have been wise to have one institution to say 'this is a lie.' We did not do that, and we were failing to do our duties.

Q: There is still no resolution to how Britain will leave the EU and Boris Johnson, the leading candidate to become the next prime minister, has said he would be content with a hard Brexit. What is your view of that?

A: I do think that a no-deal is a bad solution because it is in the interest of nobody.

We will not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement. We can give some clarifications on the political declaration related to the future relations but as far as the substance is concerned, there will be no renegotiation. This is not an agreement between Theresa May and myself, this is a treaty between Britain and the EU.

Q: There is now speculation that parliamentary elections could be called under the new prime minister. If that is the case, would that be a reason for extending the withdrawal deadline that has now been pushed back to the end of October?

A: Well this is a British decision. I will react when the decision will have been taken. I don't know if they will decide to go for new elections. This is their decision.

Q: One of the reasons given by the British public for leaving the EU is their desire not to follow instructions from Brussels. What do you think about that?

A: I have full understanding for all those who don't want to be dictated by Brussels. When I was prime minister (of Luxembourg) I was strongly refusing this dictatorship of the European Commission. I........

© The Asahi Shimbun