Ursula von der Leyen issues Brexit message after being elected to replace Jean-Claude Juncker

Alan McGuinness, political reporter

The new president of the European Commission issued an instant Brexit message after being elected to replace Jean-Claude Juncker - warning that both Britain and the EU "should do everything not to have a hard Brexit".

Ursula von der Leyen, who is the first woman to take on the role, also said she would be willing to allow another Brexit extension beyond 31 October.

She told Sky News: "I think Brexit is not the end of something, but it's the beginning of a new relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

"So we should be very careful how we deal with each other.

"And secondly it is very difficult to have Brexit. Therefore I said when there are good reasons, an extension might be possible.

"Because we should do everything [we can] not to have a hard Brexit."

Asked by Sky's Europe correspondent Mark Stone whether her approach would differ from her predecessor, Jean-Claude Juncker, Ms von der Leyen responded: "No, I think we have a very good withdrawal agreement.

"The withdrawal agreement has been negotiated within the red lines the United Kingdom gave us and therefore if the situation changes, this is another game.

"But at the moment I'm very clear about that."

:: Listen to Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Apple podcasts , Google podcasts , Spotify , Spreaker

The question of a no-deal Brexit has dominated the Tory leadership race, with both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt declaring they would be prepared to take Britain out of the EU without an agreement if necessary.

Both contenders have said they would reject a potentially key concession from Brussels on the Irish border backstop, a hardline approach which opponents say makes no deal more likely .

The outgoing German defence minister was nominated by the bloc's leaders to replace Mr Juncker as part of an overall appointments deal between member states, but still needed to be confirmed by an absolute majority of MEPs.

She was confirmed in the role by a European Parliament vote of 383-327, with 22 abstentions.

Ms von der Leyen was a last-minute candidate for the role and this caused anger among some MEPs.

The announcement came after Ms von der Leyen earlier clashed with Nigel Farage in the European Parliament as she told MEPs she would allow another extension to Brexit if there were good reasons.

She said: "We cannot talk about Europe without talking about our friends from the UK.

"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."

Ms von der Leyen said the withdrawal agreement struck with outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May "provides certainty where Brexit created uncertainty".

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

Responding to Ms von der Leyen's victory, Mr Farage told Sky News: "The urgency with which they want to centralise power, take away the ability of nation states to set their own agendas has now reached a level... all I have to say is I've got a slightly strange, ironic feeling.

"I voted against her, but as a Brexiteer, I'm very pleased she's won. She's the pinup girl now for the eurosceptic movement, for the Brexit movement.

"If we had a second referendum, she would be on every single leaflet of the Leave campaign."