European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has described Britain's planned exit from the 28-nation European Union, known as Brexit, as a “tragedy.”
"Our British friends have decided to leave, which is a tragedy … It is not a small thing,” Juncker said in an address to a conference in the Italian city of Florence on Friday.
Juncker made the remark after saying he would deliver his speech in French, apparently in reference to Britain’s lesser role in the European Union after Brexit.
"Slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe," he said, adding, “I would like to recall here that there should be no doubt that it is not the EU abandoning the UK, it is the opposite.”
Juncker acknowledged that Brussels' strict bureaucracy had pushed Britons out of the bloc.
The European Union "has some weaknesses which can partly explain the outcome of the referendum in the UK," he said.
However, the EU official said the onus of the decision was upon the Britons' shoulders.
The head of the EU's executive arm said no one should “underestimate the real importance of this sovereign decision of the British people” to divorce the EU.
He reminded that their decision would have repercussions and warned about the tough Brexit negotiations awaiting the UK.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused some EU officials of trying to influence the June 8 parliamentary elections in the UK, prompting the British people to vote against May's party. Brexit negotiations are expected to start soon after the election.
May hopes the snap elections will boost the Conservatives' mandate for Brexit by increasing their parliamentary majority.
EU officials, however, have said that the outcome of the election would have no leverage on the Brexit talks.