Ursula Von Der Leyen Bids UK 'Emotional' Farewell From EU: 'Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow'

Ursula von der Leyen's words came after the UK and EU reached a Brexit trade agreement.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addresses a media conference on Brexit negotiations at the EU headquarters in Brussels, on December 24, 2020.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addresses a media conference on Brexit negotiations at the EU headquarters in Brussels, on December 24, 2020.
FRANCISCO SECO via Getty Images

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has bade an emotional farewell to the UK by quoting Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet after the two struck a post-Brexit trade agreement.

“At the end of a successful negotiation’s journey I normally feel joy. But today I only feel quiet satisfaction and, frankly speaking, relief,” she told an EU press conference.

“I know this is a difficult day for some and to our friends in the United Kingdom I want to say: ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow.’”

She continued: “But to use a line from TS Eliot: ‘What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end, is to make a beginning.’

“So to all the Europeans I say: ’It is time to leave Brexit behind. Our future is made in Europe.’”

Von der Leyen added: “No deal in the world can change reality or gravity in today’s economy and today’s world. We are one of the giants.”

Her poignant words were echoed by chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who told the press conference: “Today is a day of relief, tempered by some sadness as we compare what came before with what lies ahead.”

Juliet’s character speaks the line “parting is such sweet sorrow” to her lover, Romeo, in Shakespeare’s tragedy. The pair are both eventually killed.

A number of political figures have reacted to the deal.

Spain president Pedro Sanchez tweeted congratulations to the EU team for their part in the negotiations, adding: “Spain and the UK continue to dialogue to reach an agreement on Gibraltar.”

David Cameron, the architect of Brexit who called for the referendum in 2016, wrote: “It’s good to end a difficult year with some positive news. Trade deal is very welcome – and a vital step in building a new relationship with the EU as friends, neighbours and partners. Many congratulations to the UK negotiating team.”

“Very welcome news that the UK & EU have reached agreement on the terms of a deal – one that provides confidence to business and helps keep trade flowing. Looking forward to seeing the detail in the coming days,” former PM Theresa May wrote.

However not everyone was particularly jubilant.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Before the spin starts, it’s worth remembering that Brexit is happening against Scotland’s will. And there is no deal that will ever make up for what Brexit takes away from us. It’s time to chart our own future as an independent, European nation.”

Wales first minister Mark Drakeford said a deal was better than no deal but criticised the timing just a week before the transition period ends.

“Clearly, we need to receive a copy of the draft treaty and analyse its terms before commenting in detail,” Drakeford said.

“But at every stage of the negotiations we have argued for a deal which would allow us to maintain the closest possible relationship with the EU. The evidence tells us this is the way to protect the economy and jobs.

“Faced with a binary choice between no deal and this – indeed any deal – we would prefer a deal.”


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