THE UK has been unnecessarily damaged by Brexit and “more will follow”, the vice-president of the European Commission has written in a “love letter” to Britain in which he promised a warm welcome back should attitudes change.

Frans Timmermans, who is Ursula von der Leyen’s deputy in her role as European Commission president, expressed his own feelings of hurt and rejection ahead of the UK’s impending departure from the bloc on January 31, likening himself to a jilted “old lover”.

Writing in the Guardian yesterday, Timmermans, a former Dutch foreign minister who was also deputy to Jean-Claude Juncker, did not refer to the vote in Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain in the EU nor did in make any explicit mention of the increased focus on constitutional issues in both parts of the UK since the Brexit vote in June 2016.

He described how he first grew to love the UK through his time at a British school in Rome, Saint George’s English School.

He wrote: “I know you now. And I love you. For who you are and what you gave me. I’m like an old lover. I know your strengths and weaknesses. I know you can be generous but also miserly. I know you believe yourself to be unique and different.

“And of course you are in many ways, but perhaps less than you think. You will never stop referring to the rest of us as ‘the continent’.

“It helps you to create a distance you think you need. But it also prevents you from seeing that in fact we all need a bit of distance between us. All European nations are unique. Our differences are a source of admiration, surprise, discomfort, misunderstanding, ridicule, caricature and, yes, love.”

Talks on the future trade relationship will start in earnest in March once the UK has formally left and negotiating positions on both sides of the channel have been confirmed. Boris Johnson has said he will not extend the transition period, during which the UK will remain in the customs union and single market but not the EU’s decision-making institutions, beyond December 2020.

Clashes are expected over access to British waters for European fishing fleets and over the EU demand that the UK government sign up to its environmental, social and fiscal rules in return for tariff-free trade in goods.

Timmermans also suggested David Cameron’s decision to hold the referendum was unnecessary as he concluded that the UK would be welcome back into the EU.

“You have decided to leave. It breaks my heart, but I respect that decision. You were in two minds about it, like you have always been in two minds about the EU. I wish you had stuck to that attitude, it served you well and it kept all of us in better shape,” he wrote.

“Was it necessary to force the issue? Not at all. But you did. And the sad thing is, I see it is hurting you. Because the two minds will still be there, even after you have left. In the process so much unnecessary damage has been done to you, and all of us. And I fear more will follow.”

He went on: “Truth be told, I felt deeply hurt when you decided to leave. Three years later I am just sad that a member of our family wants to sever our ties. But at the same time I find comfort in the thought that family ties can never really be severed. We’re not going away and you will always be welcome to come back.”