Jean- Claude Juncker.jpg
Dutch Prime minister Mark Rutte, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean- Claude Juncker during a press briefing at the end of European Council meeting in Brussels, Belgium, 28 June 2016.
Photograph: EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

Those leading the camp for Britain to exit the European Union are now proving to be unpatriotic by jumping ship, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday, pointing the finger at Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.

Former London mayor Johnson and Farage, an EU lawmaker and leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), had both been key figures arguing for a so-called Brexit ahead of last month's referendum, which was won by their camp.

However, Johnson decided last week not to run as successor to Prime Minister David Cameron, who tendered his resignation following the referendum. Farage announced on Monday that he would step down as UKIP leader, although he plans to keep his seat in the European Parliament.

"The beaming Brexit heroes of yesterday are the tragic heroes of today," Juncker said Tuesday during a plenary session of the EU's legislature in the French city of Strasbourg.

The likes of Johnson and Farage are "retro-nationalists and no patriots," he added, noting: "Patriots do not leave the ship when the situation gets difficult, that's when they stay."

He said it was incomprehensible that the champions of Brexit now needed several months to agree on their approach.

Britain has said it will not launch formal exit negotiations until after Cameron's successor has been chosen, with some contenders for the position saying this may not happen until next year.

"I don't understand why the Brexit camp needs months before knowing what to do," Juncker said. "I would have thought that they would have had a plan. Instead of developing a plan they are leaving the boat."

EU leaders have insisted that the bloc will not enter into exit negotiations with London until it has triggered Article 50 of the EU's treaty, which launches a divorce process of at least two years.

Meanwhile, a debate has begun within the bloc's remaining 27 member states over the future of the EU, in light of growing euroscepticism across the continent.

"Too many people in Europe are unhappy with the current state of affairs - be it on the national or European level - and expect us to do better," EU President Donald Tusk told the bloc's legislature.

Some argue that the bloc must respond by seeking more alignment among member states, but Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte cautioned against the approach. His country, which is also home to a strong eurosceptic movement, held the EU's rotating presidency for the last six months.

"It would be wrong to rush blindly forward towards more political integration, and a more federal Europe because that ... would be a denial of the sentiment felt by many European people, to whom the EU is, or has become, something remote and aloof," Rutte said.

Latest news

Reports: 12 injured as car runs into crowd at New Orleans parade

Twelve people were injured Saturday in the US city of New Orleans when a car struck a crowd watching a parade, local media reported.

"Moonlight" big winner at independent film awards

The coming-of-age drama "Moonlight" won six prizes including best feature at the 32nd Film Independent Spirit Awards Saturday, claiming the Hollywood spotlight on the eve of the Oscars.

Trump: I won't attend White House Correspondents' Association Dinner

US President Donald Trump said Saturday that he does not plan to attend the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year.

US Democratic Party chooses Tom Perez to be next party chief

The US Democratic Party elected former labour secretary Tom Perez as its next party chief at a meeting in Atlanta on Saturday.

73-year-old man dies after car ramming in Germany

A 73-year-old male pedestrian died from his injuries after being run over when a car rammed into people in the south-western town of Heidelberg, police said Saturday.

Syrian government vows retribution for Homs attacks that killed 42

The Syrian government vowed retribution for synchronized attacks on Saturday in Homs City that left 42 security personnel dead and reportedly involved up to six suicide bombers.

Between 250,000 and 300,000 Croatians suffer from rare diseases

Rare Disease Day, observed on February 28, was marked in Zagreb's Cvjetni Trg Square on Saturday.

German police shoot man who rammed car into pedestrians in Heidelberg

Police in Germany shot a man who rammed a car into pedestrians in the south-western town of Heidelberg on Saturday.

Egypt's al-Sissi orders cabinet to help Christians fleeing Sinai

Egypt's president Abdel Fattah al-Sissi ordered the government on Saturday to take all necessary measures to help Christians who escaped northern Sinai after the Islamic State militia killed at least six of them over the past month.

SDP MP calls on citizens to raise their voice against restriction of women's rights

Josko Klisovic, a Social Democrat member of the Croatian parliament, on Saturday called on all Croatians to raise their voice against a policy turnaround on women's rights after Croatia took a conservative position in a discussion on human rights in the Council of the European Union.

Egypt court acquits Mubarak's aide of 22 years

An Egyptian court on Saturday acquitted one of ousted president Hosny Mubarak's closest aides, ruling he was not guilty of corruption and illicit profits.

EU ambassador to Albania Romana Vlahutin under 24-hour police protection

EU Ambassador to Albania Romana Vlahutin and her family have been given 24-hour armed police protection due to threats she has been receiving lately, the Austrian paper Der Standard said on Saturday, explaining that the threats were linked to Vlahutin's monitoring of a reform of Albania's judiciary designed to curb corruption in that country.