BRUSSELS - European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday that Britain's departure would not hold the EU back, as he unveiled plans for the bloc's post-Brexit future.
Juncker laid out five possible scenarios including reducing the European Union to just a single market, returning some powers to member countries and creating a "multi-speed" Europe.
"However painful and regrettable Brexit may be, it cannot stop the European Union on its march to the future," Juncker said as he unveiled his White Paper to the European Parliament in Brussels.
EU leaders will now consider Juncker's options ahead of a summit in Rome on March 25 marking the bloc's 60th anniversary, where they will make their own declarations about the way forward after Britain's expected departure in 2019.
Rome should "not simply be a birthday celebration, it should also be the birth moment of the European Union at 27," Juncker said.
Juncker said he hoped EU leaders could draw their first conclusions based on his suggestions by the end of the year, and decide on a course of action by European Parliament elections in June 2019.
The plans have already met resistance from poorer, newer Eastern European states like Poland which fear they could be frozen out by the traditional "big guns" of France and Germany, particularly on issues of immigration.
There has also been grumbling about the timing of Juncker's plans shortly before crucial elections in the Netherlands and Germany, and particularly in France.
One of Juncker's five "pathways to unity" will be to allow EU countries to integrate at different speeds, with some nations choosing to cooperate more closely on areas such as the euro currency and defense, as others opt out.
Another is to concentrate on finalizing the EU's single market of what will be 450 million people after Brexit, in a bid to end the economic crises that have beset the euro currency.
Further scenarios would be to defy the eurosceptics and follow the dream of a fully federalized Europe or to follow the American model and focus on a reduced agenda which leaves lesser matters to member states.
Finally, he suggests keeping the status quo, with EU countries trying to stay more unified, but with the downside that it would mean more bitter arguments on issues like migration.