MEPs back von der Leyen as first woman head of European Commission

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The tight vote came after the German politician suggested Brexit could be extended past October if there is a good reason.

Ursula von der Leyen has been approved as the first female president of the European Commission by MEPs.

The German defence minister was confirmed in the role by a European Parliament vote of 383-327, with 22 abstentions.

The move required an absolute majority under EU rules.

She was nominated by EU leaders to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as part of an overall appointments deal between nations, but still needed the backing of MEPs.

Ms von der Leyen was a last-minute candidate and many legislators were angry none of their lead candidates were selected for the top job.

The secret ballot announcement came after Ms von der Leyen had clashed with Nigel Farage in the European Parliament as she said she would allow another Brexit extension beyond October 31 if there were good reasons.

The in-coming commission president said she respected but regretted the UK’s decision to leave the EU.


“For the very first time, in 2016 a member state decided to leave the EU.

“This is a serious decision, we regret it but we respect it.


“Since then, together with the current government of the UK, the EU has worked hard to organise the orderly departure of the UK.”

The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with Theresa May’s administration by Michel Barnier “provides certainty where Brexit created uncertainty”, she said.

“However, I stand ready for a further extension of the withdrawal date should more time be required for a good reason.”

France EU
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage during the debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

Mr Farage said the European Parliament had been “humbled and humiliated” by the process which led to Ms von der Leyen’s nomination by the European Council.

He added: “In some ways I’m really rather pleased, because you have just made Brexit a lot more popular in the UK, thank God we are leaving.”

Ms von der Leyen shot back, saying it was important to continue to work with the British “but I think, Mr Farage, we can probably do without what you have got to say here”.

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