Juncker: "Slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe"

The European Commission President described the British decision to leave the EU as a 'tragedy'

Juncker: "Slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe"

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EC, in Florence. Image: EU Press

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said that English is 'slowly but surely losing importance' in Europe.

The issue of Brexit dominated a EU conference in Florence earlier today.

Speaking at the 'State of the Union' event, Mr Juncker said: "Slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe. The French will have elections on Sunday and I would like them to understand what I am saying."

Ireland will be the only EU country with English as its primary language after Brexit (it is also an official language in Malta).

Switching to French, the Luxembourgish politician argued: "Our British friends decided to leave the EU, which is a tragedy. We shouldn't underestimate the importance of the decision made by the British people. It is no small event.

"We will negotiate with our British friends in full transparency, but there should be no doubt whatsoever - it isn't the EU which is abandoning the UK. It is the opposite in fact. They are abandoning the EU. This is a difference that will be felt over the next few years."

The conference was also addressed by lead Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who opened his speech by saying: "I will speak in English – obviously, I wish to be understood by the people who speak French, especially two days before this crucial election in my country. But it is equally important to be understood by the British people."

He explained: "Some in the UK have tried to blame Member States for the continued uncertainty that citizens have been confronted with for ten months now. That is wrong. The only cause of uncertainty is Brexit.

"I will do everything in my power to ensure that information on the negotiations is made public so that an informed debate can take place," he added.

Mr Barnier is due to address the Dáil next week.

Relations between British and EU officials have appeared to have grown more tense in recent days, with Theresa May accusing European politicians and officials of seeking to influence the result of the upcoming UK general election through threats.

Yesterday, European Council President Donald Tusk said Brexit negotiations will become "impossible" if emotions are allowed to run unchecked.

He argued: "The stakes are too high to let our emotions get out of hand. Because at stake are the daily lives and interests of millions of people on both sides of the Channel."