The EU’s founding states want Britain to begin leaving the union “as soon as possible” to keep the bloc from being stranded in “limbo”, Germany’s foreign minister said after emergency talks held on Saturday (25 June).
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, hosting the six original states of the European Union in Berlin, said they were in agreement that London must not wait to start the complex procedure of extracting itself from the bloc.
“We join together in saying that this process must begin as soon as possible so we don’t end up in an extended limbo period but rather can focus on the future of Europe and the work toward it.”
Steinmeier hosted his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault, the Netherlands’ Bert Koenders, Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni, Belgium’s Didier Reynders and Luxemburg’s Jean Asselborn for the six-way talks on “current European political issues”, the German foreign ministry said.
Why the wait?
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said earlier that Britain’s planned departure from the European Union was “not an amicable divorce” and also called for it to be quick.
Between those cheering out of joy and those containing their tears, some are already at work devising the terms of what will come down as the most destructive political divorce in history.
“I do not understand why the British government needs until October to decide whether to send the divorce letter to Brussels,” he told German public broadcaster ARD late Friday.
“I’d like it immediately.”
He admitted that the EU had hoped Britain would stay but that now it was key to make the separation process as speedy and painless as possible.
“It is not an amicable divorce but it was also not an intimate love affair,” he said.
“It is not a good day for Britain and the European Union but we must go on.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday in the wake of the shock referendum outcome that he would resign his office in October and leave negotiations on the so-called “Brexit” to his successor.
Hollande: ‘A massive change is needed’
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande led calls for the EU to reform in order to survive a traumatic divorce with Britain.
Ayrault said he and Steinmeier, whose countries long represented the twin-engine of European integration, were working on joint proposals that could deepen cooperation among EU members that use the euro currency, or bolster security and defence coordination.
Paris and Berlin will present their partners with “concrete solutions” to make the EU “more effective”, Ayrault told AFP.
However, France and Germany appear deeply divided over the way forward, with French public opinion increasingly hostile to further integration.
Europeans will have to struggle to drag the EU out of the doldrums after Britain’s vote Thursday, with a public hostile to further integration while Berlin and Paris are at odds over the way forward.
Merkel, who called the result a “blow” to Europe, said she would would host the leaders of France and Italy along with EU President Donald Tusk in Berlin on Monday to try to chart a reform plan.
“We take note of the British people’s decision with regret. There is no doubt that this is a blow to Europe and to the European unification process,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin.
With global markets in turmoil, she said it was important to “not draw quick and simple conclusions from the referendum in Great Britain, which would only further divide Europe.”
For his part, Hollande said on Twitter, “Today, history is knocking at our door, I will do all I can to make this a profound change and not a setback. A massive change is needed. In order to progress, Europe cannot go on like before.”
“Strengthening the euro area and its democratic governance is a necessity,” Hollande added, saying the European Union “must be understood and controlled by its citizens.”
A summit bringing together the leaders of the 28 EU member states will be held in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday (28-29 June).