European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said Brussels will work “day and night” to reach a Brexit deal.
In his annual state of the union address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Juncker said they owe it to EU citizens to preserve stability in the wake of the UK’s withdrawal.
At the same time, he warned the other 27 member states remain united behind the commission’s negotiating position and that the UK cannot enjoy the same “privileged position” as a member state.
“If you leave the union you are of course no longer part of our single market – and certainly not only in parts of it,” he said.
He welcomed Theresa May’s proposal in the Chequers plan for the establishment of a free trade area between Britain and the EU.
“The United Kingdom will never be an ordinary third country for us. The United Kingdom will always be a very close neighbour and partner, in political, economic and security terms,” he said.
“The commission’s negotiators stand ready to work day and night to reach a deal.
“We owe it to our citizens and our businesses to ensure the United Kingdom’s withdrawal is orderly and that there is stability afterwards. It will not be the commission that will stand in the way of this.”
Mr Juncker also said the EU will always show “loyalty and solidarity” with Ireland on the issue of its border with Northern Ireland.
“We will defend all the elements of the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.
“It is Brexit that risks making the border more visible in Northern Ireland. It is not the European Union.”