BRITAIN will come to “regret” Brexit, EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker has claimed during his annual State of the Union speech.

The President of the European Commission said that Brexit was a “sad and tragic moment in our history.” But, he insisted, Britain leaving the EU would not define the future of Europe”.

“We will always regret it and I think you will regret it too, if I may say. Brexit isn’t the future of Europe, it’s not the be all and end all.

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“On March 30, 2019, [there] will be a union of 27. I suggest we prepare very well for that date. Europeans will wake up on that day in the union where they know we are defending their values – where being a full member of the eurozone, banking union and Schengen have become a standard.”

Brexit barely registered in the rest of the speech, but rather, for Juncker it was an optimistic, and integrationist speech, where he called for an ever closer union between those countries remaining in the EU.

Setting out his vision for the next 18 months of his presidency, Juncker called for closer ties on tax and foreign policy.

More countries would need to take the euro, he insisted. “If we want the euro to unite our continent rather than dividing it, it needs to not be the currency of just a select group of countries. The euro is destined to be the common currency of European Union,” Juncker said.

“We do not need a separate eurozone budget, we need a strong eurozone line within the existing European budget.”

Juncker also called for Romania and Bulgaria to be admitted to the Schengen area, where citizens can travel freely without border controls.

He said he wanted the eventual “merging” of the roles of the commission president and the president of the EU council, the body that represents the 27 member states.

The EU should be “steered by one and the same captain”, said Juncker, adding: “A single president would reflect the true nature of the Europe.”

Brussels will also put forward a trade strategy that will give the EU power to screen foreign investment in “strategic” European industries.

“We have a political responsibility to know what is happening in order to protect our security”, Juncker said.

Meanwhile, a new study suggested 23 per cent of Scottish manufacturers have lost or are at risk of losing staff due to Brexit.

Businesses surveyed said this was due to uncertainty over EU workers’ rights post-Brexit and a drop in the value of the pound.

Nearly a quarter of respondents cited Brexit concerns and uncertainty over future trading tariffs as a key barrier to growth, the Manufacturing and Engineering Report 2017/18 found.

The survey was conducted by Henderson Loggie, in conjunction with the MHA association of UK independent accountancy firms and Bank of Scotland, questioning 50 Scottish businesses as part of a survey of 460 UK-wide.

It found that Scottish manufacturers are optimistic about growth prospects in the coming year, with 65 per cent predicting growth in the next 12 months.

Forty-five per cent of businesses expect staff numbers to increase in the next 12 months, however 72 per cent of respondents have difficulty recruiting employees with the relevant skills.

Gavin Black, manufacturing lead at Henderson Loggie, said: “Scottish manufacturers are largely positive in their outlook and prospects for growth, and the sector is certainly gritting its teeth in what has been a difficult and uncertain period.

“However, we should not be complacent and the survey has found that despite the ambitions, growth is being constrained and companies in the sector continue to be under increasing pressure to cut costs, meet the rising prices of raw materials and embrace new technologies if they are to survive. The sector continues to have difficulty recruiting staff with the relevant skills, the pressure on which is likely to increase as some businesses are at risk of losing staff due to Brexit.”

Economy Secretary Keith Brown said: “These are very encouraging figures for our vital manufacturing industry. A strong manufacturing base is critical to Scotland’s economic success and to creating skilled employment opportunities for the future.

“With Scotland enjoying resources few nations can match, we will continue to do all we can to support growth.”