Juncker: Grab Brexit chance to forge a tighter EU

STRASBOURG: European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker urged EU governments on Wednesday to use economic recovery and Brexit as springboards towards a closer union, built on an expanded euro zone and a pivotal role in world trade.
In his annual State of the European Union speech, Juncker sketched out a vision of a post-2019 EU where some 30 countries would be using the euro, with an EU finance minister running key budgets to help states in trouble.
Tax and welfare standards would converge and Europe, not the United States, would be the hub of a free-trading world.
The EU chief executive stressed his wish to heal divisions between eastern and western states. He sees that as vital to countering a drive, including by founding powers France and Germany, to set up new structures within the bloc that would exclude some poorer, ex-communist members in the east.
“The wind is back in Europe’s sails,” Junker told the European Parliament, citing economic growth and the easing of a succession of crises —Greek debt, refugee inflows, the rise of euro-scepticism reflected in Brexit — that seemed to threaten the EU’s survival. “Now we have a window of opportunity, but it will not stay open for ever,” he said, emphasising a need to move on from and even profit from the British vote to leave the bloc in 2019.
“We will keep moving on because Brexit isn’t everything, it is not the future of Europe,” he said in a speech that Brexit supporters said showed they were right to take Britain out of a bloc set on creating more powerful, central institutions.
In a carefully balanced, hour-long discourse in Strasbourg, he called on nationalist eastern leaders — though not by name — to stop defying EU courts over civil rights, and on westerners to drop attempts to keep out cheaper eastern workers or palm off inferior food products in poorer national markets. — Reuters