EU Would Be ‘Very Happy’ to Bring UK Closer, Gentiloni Says

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union would be delighted if it can forge a warmer relationship with a future UK government, according to the bloc’s economy commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni.

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Questioned on Bloomberg Television on prospects for a greater rapprochement between the two sides in the event of a change in government in Britain, the Brussels official expressed hope.

“Closer ties are what we expect,” he said in an interview with Oliver Crook. “I have to say that we reached a very good agreement with the existing government. But if closer relations are possible with the new government, we are very happy.”

The remarks on the sidelines of a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers in the Italian lakeside town of Stresa follow UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement of an election on July 4.

With the ruling Conservative Party languishing in the polls, the prime minister would need to pull off a remarkable turnaround to stave off a victory by the opposition Labour Party led by Keir Starmer.

While Sunak has edged the UK closer to the EU and helped to normalize relations with the bloc, Labour has vowed to further improve ties if it wins power.

Last year Sunak’s government agreed the Windsor Framework to smooth trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and struck a deal for the UK to rejoin the EU’s Horizon science program. However, Sunak recently rejected a proposal by Brussels to make it easier for young people to move between the UK and EU for work and study.

David Lammy, a possible future foreign secretary under such a Labour administration, said earlier this month that if his side wins, it would “get into negotiation” when the post-Brexit trade agreement is reviewed in 2025.

A Labour government would be willing to discuss the EU’s youth mobility offer as part of talks to boost cooperation, he said, cautioning that there would be no return to the bloc’s single-market freedom of movement rules.

Starmer has also promised to “get a much better deal” next year and is seeking to agree a new security pact with the EU.

--With assistance from William Horobin, Alessandra Migliaccio, Viktoria Dendrinou, Kamil Kowalcze, Toru Fujioka and Caroline Connan.

(Updates with details on UK-EU relations starting in sixth paragraph)

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