Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, hopes that the UK will apply to rejoin the European Union even if it goes through with Brexit.
Addressing the European Parliament, Mr Juncker said: “I still feel the exit of Britain is a catastrophe, yes, a defeat we all have to take responsibility for.
Referring to remarks made on Tuesday by European Council President Donald Tusk, Mr Juncker said: “Mr Tusk and I once again reached out to the British government yesterday and said that if the British people, the British parliament, the British government, wish for another way than Brexit, we would be prepared to discuss it.
“We are not throwing out the British, we want them to stay. And if they want to, they should be able to. ”
Juncker said that even if the UK left under Article 50, Article 49 would allow a return to membership. “I would like us now to treat each other with respect and not abandon each other,” he said.