European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday said he would miss Britain's outgoing prime minister despite a rocky start when David Cameron warned that Juncker's appointment could lead to Britons voting to leave the EU.
Cameron was stepping down later Wednesday after losing the campaign to keep Britain in the European Union. Two years ago, he had unsuccessfully tried to block Juncker from becoming president of the commission, the body that proposes EU legislation and represents the bloc on the international stage.
Juncker told reporters in Beijing that the two of them had had "an excellent professional and personal relationship since I am president of the commission, but not before," and that he had "no beef" with Cameron.
"I have experienced a man who is serious, who is a fan of no-nonsense policy and who was delivering at each and every moment when things started to become serious," Juncker said.
Cameron had said that Juncker was a longtime Brussels insider who was chosen in a "backroom deal." He had warned other EU leaders that electing him would undermine his attempts to persuade Britons that the EU could be reformed and make them more likely to vote to leave the union.
Cameron's replacement is his home secretary Theresa May, who gave her lukewarm support to remaining in the EU during the referendum campaign, but who has since said "Brexit means Brexit." She is now tasked with leading Britain as it negotiates an exit from the EU.
She was quoted by British media this week as saying she is "a bloody difficult woman, and the next man to find that out will be Jean-Claude Juncker." Her phrase "bloody difficult woman" was a reference to a recent unguarded assessment of her by a former British minister picked up on camera.
In response, Juncker said: "I don't want to talk about her before I have talked with her." He added that he thought their relationship had "the potential to become a good [relationship]."
Pressed on whether he thought May might reverse Britain's referendum vote to leave the EU, Juncker said: "It's difficult for me to investigate my own psychology, let alone the psychology of others."
Juncker was in Beijing along with Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, and others to attend a two-day China-EU summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
The bloc's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said Wednesday that Brexit will have a "deterrent effect" on other EU member states who might have thought of "cultivating the illusion in their citizens that the way you solve a problem is simply to get out."
While the EU is losing its biggest military, development aid donor, and a permanent security council member, "the U.K. is losing even more, because the U.K is losing the other 27, it's losing the possibility to sit around the table," she said following a speech at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.