Kerry urges European leaders not to take revenge for Brexit

John Kerry and Federica Mogherini at the European Commission. [European Commission]

John Kerry urged EU leaders today (27 June) not to “lose their heads” and take revenge on the United Kingdom, after its decision to quit the European Union.

“I think it is absolutely essential that we stay focused on how in this transitional period no one loses their head, nobody goes off half-cocked, people don’t start ginning up scatterbrained or revengeful premises,” the United States secretary of state said in Brussels, using an American slang phrase to describe coming up with ideas.

Kerry said the United States and the EU should instead “look for ways to maintain the interests and values that brought us together in the first place”.

Kerry met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, during a crunch visit to the EU capital, underscoring the political crisis that exploded over the last three days.

Kerry was in Rome over the weekend and tacked on the last-minute meetings in Brussels and a stop over in London after UK voters chose to leave the European Union in a referendum on Thursday (23 June).

He will meet with UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Prime Minister David Cameron tomorrow to discuss the outcome of the referendum.

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“There are consequences but there are ways to make certain that we’re trying to chart out a path for the future that actually strengthens the EU,” Kerry said of his talks with the four leaders.

Mogherini said the EU is in “a difficult time”. “First of all for the British people but also for all our European partners.”

“The EU is strong and the EU can be even stronger in the future,” she added.

Kerry will be back in Brussels on 18 July for a meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers.

He and Mogherini did not take any questions from journalists during a press appearance. The secretary of state did not respond to one reporter’s question about whether he wanted the UK’s divorce from the EU to be a slow process.

David Cameron has said the UK will not officially notify Brussels that it will leave the EU until a new prime minister takes office in autumn. Cameron announced Friday that he will resign in October.

But several EU leaders, including European Parliament President Martin Schulz, want the UK to start negotiations to leave the EU this week.

Kerry said leaders should “implement the will of the people and do so in a way that is responsible, sensitive, thoughtful and, I hope, strategic”.

He also emphasised that the US will “maintain its special relationship with Great Britain.”

“Ever since World War Two, we have been working, all of us together, to reach a situation to make countries stronger and be able to deliver the benefits of a good life to our people,” Kerry said.

“The issues and values that have united us don’t change.”

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