'Imagine there's no Brexit': EU boss channels Lennon

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 22, 2017 11:56 AM

By Alastair Macdonald

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Since this month's election, many British voices have joined a debate on how or even if Brexit may happen; on Thursday, one EU chief added that of John Lennon, sparking a round of more and less musical replies.

Donald Tusk, the former Polish prime minister chairing a summit of EU leaders in Brussels attended by British Prime Minister Theresa May, spoke of the revival of discussion in Britain since May lost her government majority on June 8.

"We can hear different predictions, coming from different people, about the possible outcome of these negotiations: hard Brexit, soft Brexit or no deal," he told reporters, referring to talks on Brexit that began in Brussels this week.

"Some of my British friends have even asked me whether Brexit could be reversed, and whether I could imagine an outcome where the UK stays part of the EU. I told them that in fact the European Union was built on dreams that seemed impossible to achieve," he said, before turning to the late Beatle to clarify.

"So, who knows?," said Tusk, citing Lennon's "Imagine". "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I am not the only one."

Several other leaders at the summit took up the theme of the 1971 hit about an end to war and national divisions.

"Yeah, we all have that dream. I hate Brexit from every angle," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said of stopping a move Britons voted for last year. "But this is a sovereign decision by the British people and I can't argue with democracy."

His Belgian neighbor Charles Michel, who has long voiced concern that British ambivalence should not be allowed to derail much deeper European integration, was more cautious about even raising the prospect of Britain staying in the Union.

"I am NOT a dreamer and I'm not the only one," Michel told reporters as he arrived at the summit, reflecting the Brussels consensus that Britain is definitely leaving and that talk of a U-turn, which would need EU consent, is simply a waste of time.

"It's time for action and certainty. Not for dreams and uncertainty," the Belgian premier tweeted in response to Tusk.

For the president of Lithuania, which has more than 100,000 citizens living in Britain, keeping close ties after Brexit is vital. But Dalia Grybauskaite also joined in the pop lyrics fun on Twitter by suggesting that even after Britain's "divorce", its European allies could still be counted on as friends.

Quoting from a Motown classic in which a former lover tells an ex "If you need me call me", the ever-eloquent Lithuanian leader tweeted: "#Brexit: ain't no mountain high enough."

(Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Philip Blenkinsop and Charlotte Steenackers; Editing by Louise Ireland)