Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, has told the European Parliament he would like to see Britain rejoin the European Union after Brexit, insisting that leaving the bloc is a losing scenario for the UK.
Speaking in Strasbourg on Wednesday (17 January), Juncker said Britain could still decide to remain in the EU if it wanted, adding the UK would be accepted back into the bloc if it were to change its mind after 2019.
The 63-year-old added that Brexit would be a "lose-lose" scenario for Britain, while reiterating that the EU saw Brexit as a "catastrophe". However, he admitted the the "guilt" for Brexit "lies on many shoulders" and that Britain was not the only party responsible for the decision to leave the union.
"Our hand remains outstretched," he said.
"The UK people, the UK government, may wish to find a different way out. We're very much willing to deal with them. We are not throwing the British out. We would like the British to stay. And if they so wish, they should be allowed to do so.
"I did note that in London there was a rather irritated response to this proposal. But, note that even if the British leave according to article 50, then article 94 [he actually meant article 49] would allow them to accede again. And I would be happy to facilitate that. I would not want to push anyone into a corner."
Juncker's stance echoed the words of European Council's president Donald Tusk and of Frans Timmermans, the vice president of the European Commission, who on Tuesday suggested Britain still had time to change its mind about Brexit.
However, while Tusk and Timmermans' comments suggest Article 50 is indeed revocable, their stance was met with a cold shoulder by the British government.
"We have been absolutely clear that the British people voted to leave the European Union and that is what we will be doing," a spokesman for Number 10 said.
Juncker's comments come a day after a survey showed most Britons would now rather see Theresa May call for a second Brexit referendum rather than leave the EU without a trade deal.
According to a BMG poll released overnight on Tuesday, 57% of British voters would opt for another vote if it became apparent that the prime minister could not secure a favourable deal for Britain.
The percentage is even higher among young voters, with 73% between the ages of 18 and 34 backing the option of a second referendum.