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Murder of Polish man in Essex condemned by European Commission president

Published 14/09/2016

Jean-Claude Juncker said the UK cannot expect
Jean-Claude Juncker said the UK cannot expect "a la carte" access to the single market (AP Photo/Jean Francois Badias)
Brexit Secretary David Davis said it was very improbable that the UK could be in the single market and control its borders

The murder of a Polish man in Essex and the suspected rise in hate crime following the Brexit vote have been condemned by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Mr Juncker defended the free movement of European Union citizens - seen as a key factor in the vote to leave - as he denounced the killing of Arkadiusz Jozwik in Harlow last month.

Police are treating the attack as a possible hate crime and six teenagers, aged 15 and 16, have been arrested and released on bail.

Poles have been victims in a series of incidents since the UK voted to leave the EU in June, including the assault of two Polish men within hours of a vigil following Mr Jozwik's death.

Last week a Polish man was attacked and beaten by a group of up to 20 teenagers in a suspected racially-aggravated assault in Leeds.

Amid the violence, Theresa May called the Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo to express her "deep regret" and to stress "hate crime has no place in UK society".

Now Mr Juncker has intervened.

At his state of the EU address to the European Parliament, Mr Juncker said: "We Europeans can never accept, never, Polish workers being harassed, beaten up or even murdered in the streets of Essex."

He added: "The free movement of workers is as much a common European value as our fight against discrimination and racism."

Meanwhile, Mr Juncker suggested that Britain cannot be a member of the European single market and regain full control over immigration from the continent.

He said the UK cannot expect "a la carte" access to the free trade zone once Brexit is delivered.

European leaders see the free movement of EU citizens as a condition of single market membership.

The issue has become central to the Brexit debate and has caused friction within the Government as ministers weigh up how to maintain the benefits of the trading bloc while regaining full control over immigration.

The Prime Minister slapped down Brexit Secretary David Davis for saying it was "very improbable" that the UK could be in the single market and also control its borders.

Mr Juncker warned Britain: "There can be no a la carte access to the single market."

He also called on the Government to trigger Article 50 - the formal process for leaving the EU - as soon as possible.

"We would be happy if the request for Brexit could happen as quickly as possible so that we could take the specific steps which need to happen," he said.

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage was branded a liar by MEPs after saying the EU had "declared war" on Britain by appointing federalist Guy Verhofstadt as the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator.

The former Ukip leader suggested the appointment would lead to a continuation of the "dogma" that free movement is a condition of single market membership and therefore no trade deal with Britain.

This "isn't too bad" for the UK but would hurt German car companies and French wine makers, because they would face tariffs to export into the UK, Mr Farage said.

Responding to Mr Juncker's speech, he told the European Parliament: "If you were to think of this building as a temple, well Mr Verhofstadt is the high priest - a fanatic.

"In fact, there is only one real nationalist in the room and it's you (Mr Verhofstadt) - because you want flags, anthems, armies, you are an EU nationalist.

"I frankly think that this appointment amounts to pretty much a declaration of war on any sensible negotiating process.

"If you stick to the dogma of saying that for reciprocal tariff-free access with the single market we must maintain the free movement of people, then you will inevitably drive us towards no deal - no deal and trading on WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules."

Mr Farage added: "I would argue what we really need is to have a sensible, common sense approach and for this parliament to recognise it has made a mistake and to find somebody who actually likes the United Kingdom to lead these talks."

At Prime Minister's Questions, Mrs May continued her approach of not offering a "running commentary" on the Government's Brexit negotiating strategy.

After being pressed on whether the UK will retain so-called "passporting" rights for financial services to operate across the EU, which are part of the single market, the PM said: "This Government will be working to ensure the right deal for the United Kingdom in trade, in goods and services."

She also reiterated her commitment to ending free movement of EU citizens as it currently operates, insisting voters sent a "very clear message" to the Government in the referendum.

"They want to see control of movement of people from the European Union into the UK, and that's what we will deliver," Mrs May said.

Responding to Mr Juncker's comments, Mrs May's official spokeswoman said: "The Prime Minister has herself already expressed concern about hate crime in this country. That's why the Government has set out an action plan.

"As we said last week, the Prime Minister has spoken to the Polish prime minister about some of the incidents we have seen.

"Of course, we need to let the police investigations take their course, but the Prime Minister is absolutely clear about the values that make this country great - We are a tolerant nation and we should continue to be one."

Later, Mr Farage criticised Mr Juncker for focusing on the killing of Mr Jozwik, arguing that all violence and murder should be condemned - including that perpetrated by criminal EU citizens in the UK.

He told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "He (Mr Juncker) did refer to that awful incident, but equally he could have referred to many other dreadful things being done all over Europe.

"Not to mention 14 recognised terrorist attacks in the space of this year.

"I don't actually think that it's ever very wise to pick any one incident against an individual and to use it for political ends."

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