Jean-Claude Juncker accuses Boris Johnson of telling Brexit 'lies' in 2016 EU referendum

Posted On: 
4th November 2019

Jean-Claude Juncker has accused Boris Johnson of telling "so many lies" during the 2016 EU referendum campaign.

Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker
Credit: 
PA

The outgoing European Commission president told Der Spiegel that politicians should have done more to "counter" untruths about the EU in the run-up to the vote for Brexit.

And he revealed that the Commission had decided not to wade into the fierce debate over Britain's future on the advice of the then-Prime Minister David Cameron.

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"So many lies were told, including by current prime minister, Boris Johnson, that there needed to be a voice to counter them," he said.

The Brussels boss - who is soon to be succeeded by Ursula von der Leyen - also hit out at successive generations of British politicians, including his "friend" Tony Blair, for failing to talk up anything other than the economic benefits of EU membership.

"I have been involved in European politics since December 1982 and have seen time and again that the British have operated on the premise: We are only in the EU for economic reasons," he said.

"When it came to the political union, to moving closer together, they wanted nothing to do with the EU. That was even the case with my friend Tony Blair.

"If you stick to that narrative for over 40 years, it should not come as a surprise when people remember it during the referendum."

Mr Juncker also revealed that he had warned Mr Cameron - who campaigned to Remain in the EU - that he would lose the 2016 referendum.

The Brussels chief said: "When then-Prime Minister David Cameron told me on the sidelines of the 2014 G-20 summit in Brisbane that he really wanted to hold a Brexit referendum, I told him: 'You're going to lose it.'

"I made a bet with the European commissioner of British nationality at the time, Jonathan Hill: I get a pound from you if the Remainers lose, you get a euro if you win. I have that pound today."

The outgoing European Commission chief has had a stormy relationship with British leaders since he took on the job in 2014.

Mr Cameron staunchly opposed the appointment of Mr Juncker, a former prime minister of Luxembourg, to the top post arguing that he had been "at the heart of the project to increase the power of Brussels and reduce the power of nation states for his entire working life".

His successor as European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, was originally due to take up post on 1 November, but her appointment was delayed after the European Parliament rejected nominees in her top team.