Juncker: UK can reclaim powers while staying in EU
Leaked recording suggests thaw in relations between UK and EU president
Britain will be allowed to reclaim powers from the EU while remaining within it, Jean-Claude Juncker has said.
In a leaked recording of a meeting with MEPs, Juncker insists that he does "not want the EU without Britain". Using the EU term for powers, he says he is ready to return "competences" back to Britain ahead of the in-out referendum promised by David Cameron if he wins the next election.
Juncker tells the MEPS: "I would like Britain to stay as an active constructive member of the European Union. If Britain puts forward a proposal it will be taken under consideration."
In the recording, obtained by the Daily Telegraph, the EU head continues: "I am not in principle saying that no kind of repatriation can take place. If Westminster wants to recover competences, OK. If the others agree, it shall be done."
He also says that Britain is "an essential element of policy-making in Europe because the British are a common sense and down to earth people".
The comments will be welcomed by David Cameron, who failed to prevent Juncker becoming president of the European Commission last month. Cameron had warned fellow European leaders that the former Luxembourg premier would halt attempts to reform the bloc.
Following Juncker's successful election, the prime minister said that keeping Britain in the EU had "got harder" because of Juncker's nomination, which he described as a "bad day for the EU".
Earlier this week, relations between the two men were strained further when Juncker gave a thumbs-up gesture in response to a call from a Labour MEP for David Cameron to be dumped at the next general election.