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Ursula von der Leyen signals she will not reopen Brexit talks

13 July 2019

The German defence minister has been on a charm offensive to win over European lawmakers after her name was put forward by EU leaders in a surprise announcement last Tuesday.

She said she still hoped the United Kingdom would remain in the European Union, while indicating she had no intention to renegotiate the withdrawal deal agreed by Theresa May and EU leaders.

"Ursula von der Leyen evaded our questions on the rule of law and democracy in Europe".

Prime Minister Antti Rinne of Finland, which just took over the rotating presidency of the European Council, called for von der Leyen's quick approval. "This is the foundation - respect for the rule of law", she told a group of liberal deputies, adding that it was also vital to boost the competitiveness of the EU's economy.

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The EU, weakened by the 2009-2012 euro zone crisis, Britain's decision to quit the bloc and the rise of far-right and far-left eurosceptic parties, needs a strong Commission president to improve its fortunes, officials and experts say. "We have an agreement - which hasn't been signed on both sides - and we have the backstop", she said, referring to a controversial provision in the deal negotiated by Mrs May to avoid extensive border controls on the Irish border after Brexit. European Parliament groups are grilling the German candidate for European Commission president before they take a vote on her appointment next week.

German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, a compromise name for the next European Commission President, was nominated at the EU summit on June 30-July 2. And for that we will have to be more ambitious with our climate goals for 2030.

European Union diplomats believe the parliament will eventually confirm Von der Leyen, who yesterday recalled that she was born in Brussels and went to a multinational school there, adding: 'From the outset, I really lived and breathed the spirit of Europe.

Von der Leyen, who would be the first woman to lead the EU executive, said she wanted an equal share of men and women as European commissioners.

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While meeting with the free-market liberal group Renew Europe, she said it was a "brilliant idea" to hold a citizens dialogue about the future of Europe.

"I think it's a good deal, but it is your responsibility and your noble task to sort this out", she told a British Liberal Democrat MEP in the European parliament, in her first public comments on Brexit.

The German politician is due to take over from Jean-Claude Juncker on November 1st if her nomination is backed by MEPs.

The 60-year-old needs to secure at least 376 votes for a majority, but Brussels insiders believe she is still short of the required numbers.

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Ursula von der Leyen signals she will not reopen Brexit talks