As it happened: First EU summit post-Brexit

The British people have spoken, now the member states have to start thinking about life after the UK. [Shutterstock]

Following the UK’s historic decision to leave the EU, member states convened in Brussels to begin the unprecedented decision of discussing the terms of its divorce. Follow EURACTIV’s live blog below for all the developments as they happened.

  • 23 June: 51.9% of voters chose to the leave the EU. Over 30 million people turned out.
  • 24 June: David Cameron announces he will resign as Prime Minister by October.
  • 28-29 June: EU leaders urge Britain to trigger Brexit negotiation as soon as possible.

Cameron gets okay for successor to trigger Brexit at Brussels ‘last supper’

British Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to deny the United Kingdom had collapsed “politically, monetarily, constitutionally and economically” last night, after his final summit with EU leaders before the UK leaves the bloc.


Matthew Tempest 29/06/201618:48

Matthew Tempest 29/06/201618:48

Matthew Tempest 29/06/201617:31

James Crisp 29/06/201617:30

James Crisp 29/06/201617:20

James Crisp 29/06/201617:19

Samuel Morgan 29/06/201617:18

Matthew Tempest 29/06/201615:37

Summit over.

Here is the top line, and the main conclusions.

We, the Heads of State or Government of 27 Member States, as well as the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, deeply regret the outcome of the referendum in the UK but we respect the will expressed by a majority of the British people. Until the UK leaves the EU, EU law continues to apply to and within the UK, both when it comes to rights and obligations.

Samuel Morgan 29/06/201613:11

“The man in seat 123” (Commissioner for Health Vytenis Andriukaitis) finally breaks his silence.

Samuel Morgan 29/06/201612:48

Some of the people who have been hard at work to bring you the latest updates from the ongoing summit.

Daniela Vincenti 29/06/201611:14

Frédéric Simon 29/06/201611:05

Samuel Morgan 29/06/201609:29

Frédéric Simon 29/06/201609:04

For those who missed it, we also have an interview with one of Britain’s finest gentlemen, Nigel Farage.

Frédéric Simon 29/06/201609:02

Something else to watch today is Nicola Sturgeon’s visit to Brussels. The Scottish First Minister will defend Scotland’s place in the European Union after Brexit. She will meet with Martin Schulz and representatives of the major political groups of European lawmakers. Experts have said one way in which Scotland could remain in the EU would be if it became independent and then applied to be a “successor state”, effectively inheriting Britain’s EU membership.

Frédéric Simon 29/06/201608:53

Story below by @GeorgiGotev shows how the Visegrad group is fast becoming the next headache for Juncker. In Cameron’s absence, the euro-bashing corner is now occupied by Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Frédéric Simon 29/06/201608:20

So what about the Franco-German engine, you may ask? Usually, when there’s a big crisis in the EU, Paris and Berlin *always* come up with something to put the European project back on track, right?

Not this time. In fact, Hollande and Merkel have already entered the pre-electoral campaign for the 2017 elections in France and Germany. This blog post by Le Monde’s Frédéric Lemaître explains how French socialists are already plotting with SPD ministers in Merkel’s grand coalition and others in the “socialist family” across Europe to overthrow the CDU/CSU next year.

Not exactly the kind of friendly environment needed to launch big initiatives at EU level.

Frédéric Simon 29/06/201607:59

A foretaste of what will come out of today’s meeting at 27 is the common declaration adopted before the summit between Hollande, Merkel and Renzi. Three priorities were mentioned there: 1) Security, border controls and fight against terrorism; 2) Jobs and growth (!!), investment in digital and clean energy; 3) Youth exchanges and mobility.

Frédéric Simon 29/06/201607:54

Today, EU leaders will meet without Cameron in an “informal” format to discuss the “practical implications of the UK vote to leave the EU” and the EU’s future without Britain. Don’t expect much substance, however, beyond the predictable declarations of unity and “solidarity” in the face of adverse events. In EU jargon, “informal” means nothing can be decided.

Frédéric Simon 29/06/201607:46

Good morning. Here’s a video round up by the Council press service. Cameron quote at the end sounds like common sense: “It is impossible to have all the benefits of membership without some of the costs. That is something the next British government is going to have to think through”

Matthew Tempest 29/06/201601:43

1.45am Our wrap up story

Catherine Stupp 29/06/201600:56

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker expressed anger over how British Prime Minister David Cameron campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU.

“Blaming Brussels day after day, starting in the morning and finishing in the evening, telling them that Brussels is under the Commission ruled by bureaucrats, technocrats and non-elected people, then you can’t be surprised by the result,” Juncker said.

“I like him as a person though he was behaving to me in a certain way – our friendship will remain, that is the only thing that will remain,” he added.

European Council President Donald Tusk attempted to dispel fears that the UK’s vote in favour of Brexit had caused economic and political upheaval.

“The negative effects are less negative than we expected before Brexit,” he said.

“Brexit means substantial variables in UK with possible negative spillover across the whole world,” he added.

Tusk also insisted that only the UK government can activate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and formally notify EU countries that it will leave the union.

Several EU leaders, including European Parliament President Martin Schulz, have demanded the UK start negotiations to leave the EU immediately. But David Cameron said he will leave that to his successor, who will take over after he steps down at the beginning of September. Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy both said that Cameron will have to leave office by 9 September.

“If they need more time, we have to wait,” Tusk said, adding, “it’s not the best.”

Catherine Stupp 29/06/201600:45

French President Francois Hollande said, “We do understand that he [Cameron] cannot himself trigger the procedure of the Article 50 to open up the negotiations because he is resigning.”

Hollande also said Cameron was “moved, probably because it was his last European Council.”

Matthew Tempest 29/06/201600:26

The Cameron, Merkel, Tusk, Rutte, Juncker, Hollande, Rajoy press conferences are over.

Cameron was forced to deny point blank to the BBC that, in Dutch PM Mark Rutte’s words, England had collapsed “politically, monetarily, constitutionally and economically”.

Catherine Stupp 29/06/201600:25

Angela Merkel insisted there’s no turning back on Brexit – the UK government will have to start negotiating its exit from the EU.

Catherine Stupp 28/06/201623:00

Talks finished for tonight. Tusk, Juncker and Rutte about to give press conference

Matthew Tempest 28/06/201622:21

Catherine Stupp 28/06/201622:21

BBC reports that Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has floated the idea that British students could get EU passports if they study in the EU. It’s still unclear whether Renzi meant passports or temporary visas.

“In other words, if a British student decides to spend two, three, four years in a university in Europe, we study now if it’s possible to give him a European passport – Italian, French or German. But for now, nothing is sure,” Renzi told the BBC.

Matthew Tempest 28/06/201622:20

Catherine Stupp 28/06/201621:19

James Crisp grabbed four minutes with a jubilant Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP.

Asked what would be the point of UKIP after Brexit, Farage said, “After Brexit, who cares?”

Matthew Tempest 28/06/201620:32

Matthew Tempest 28/06/201620:02

Am hearing that the Irish will be pushing very hard for the Taoiseach to have a major role in the Brexit negotiations, considering the Northern Irish peace process, and the UK-Irish economy.

Matthew Tempest 28/06/201619:59

I asked Schulz – in his native German – “if, in his view, at the moment, the UK had a functioning government.”

He replied that he disagreed with many policies of the Conservative government.

I pointed out that Cameron had already resigned, “we were waiting until October or November for a new prime minister, the official opposition was in chaos, and the economy was in the shit.” (meant to say ‘plummeting’ but couldn’t remember the word in time.)

Schulz thanked me for my “beautiful formulation” in German, and added: “Ich glaube nicht, dass es angemessen ist, dass ein ganzer Kontinent warten muss, bis eine einzelne Partei ihren Parteitag abgehalten hat. Deshalb glaube ich, man kann den Tory-Parteitag auch schneller abwickeln und dann eben auch schneller zu Verhandlungen kommen.”

Basically “I don’t believe it’s appropriate for the entire continent to wait on the party conference. Thus I believe the quicker you can have the Tory conference, the quicker you can come to negotiations.”

Matthew Tempest 28/06/201619:28

1900 European Parliament President Martin Schulz just held a 60-minute long press conference. managed to get in three questions (for which we were teasingly remanded in the interests of “press plurality”.)

Schulz spoke at length about his “sadness” at the vote, how the youth of the UK should not feel excluded from Europe – and that he would be meeting Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Brussels tomorrow, albeit largely in “listening” mode.

Matthew Tempest 28/06/201619:18

From @JamesCrisp6

Senior French official: “The taskforce to handle the talks will be Commission-led, but backed the Council.”

Catherine Stupp 28/06/201618:27

After no confidence vote, Corbyn says he won’t resign

UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn says he won’t resign after losing a no confidence vote from Labour MPs.

“I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 percent of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning. Today’s vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy. We are a democratic party, with a clear constitution. Our people need Labour party members, trade unionists and MPs to unite behind my leadership at a critical time for our country,” Corbyn said in a statement.

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201617:55

Following criticism of his involvement in the Remain campaign, Labour party MPs have passed a non-binding vote of no-confidence in its leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The 172-40 vote follows in the wake of mass resignations from the shadow cabinet.

The leader’s allies have told his detractors to trigger a formal leadership contest if they want to challenge him.

The shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused Corbyn’s critics of trying to “subvert democracy”.

Matthew Tempest 28/06/201617:15

From my colleague, @GeorgiGotev

Bulgaria’s Borissov blames populists, backs Juncker

Arriving on the Council doorstep, Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov blamed populism and the tabloid press for the Leave vote at the UK referendum on Europe.

He said that in “just one night”, after the news of the result broke, the UK had lost an amount 20 times bigger than its annual membership fee to the EU. He mentioned the figure of 200 billion euro being lost in the matter of a day.

Borissov said the United Kingdom has become “the disunited kingdom” and that the young Brits in Brussels wanted to stay there, and that they were not contemplating to return home.

But he hinted that a reversal of Brexit was possible, “unlike a return of England to the Euro 2016 cup”, where its team was kicked out by tiny Iceland. Politicians should make proof of composure, he said – without elaborating further.

The Bulgarian PM also said he will plead for a reasonable and non-emotional Brexit negotiation, which would not cause harm to the Bulgarian nationals already working in the UK. He said he would like the divorce talks to be fast, to avoid uncertainty, which would provide gunpowder to “new populists”.

Borissov also blamed the “double standards” in the EU which prevented Bulgaria to join the Schengen area, despite the fact that the Commission has long stated that the country had fulfilled all criteria. This attitude is now prompting some Central European countries to raise the tone and the Union to become more and more divided.

He said that at the EPP pre-summit, he warned that Bulgaria will play ball with regard to the complicated issues ahead only if it is finally admitted to Schengen.

Asked about the possibility that the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU be brought six month earlier, from the beginning of 2018, to replace the expected withdrawal of the UK from their tour of duty in the second half of 2017, Borissov said this was not a problem and Bulgaria could assume its stint no matter when.

Borissov also made it clear he preferred the Commission to be responsible for the Brexit talks, adding that the Council wasn’t as well equipped and was often disunited.

Asked if he was contacted by his colleagues from Central Europe who ask the resignation of Juncker he said he didn’t want to talk about contacts held in confidentiality, adding that he believed that the Commission and Juncker deserve support.

“But now I’m waiting for the elections in the US, because it could happen that the world will become an even more interesting place”, he said.

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201616:08

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Samuel Morgan 28/06/201615:19

London Mayor Sadiq Khan rejected calls for London to secede from the rest of Britain after a national referendum in favour of leaving the EU but said he wanted a “full seat” at any Brexit negotiations.

Khan also demanded more autonomy from central government, including on public spending, in order to “protect” the British capital’s economy.

“Remaining in the single market needs to be priority one, two and three of our negotiation with the EU. As much as I might like the idea of a London city state, I’m not seriously talking about independence today. I am not planning to install border points on the M25,” Khan told the conference in London.

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201615:10

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201615:02

Lithuania’s president on Brexit

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201615:01

James Crisp 28/06/201614:58

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201614:44

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201614:38

Donald Tusk had the following to say ahead of the meeting.

“First, I want to say that while respecting the will of the UK voters, we also have to respect our treaties; and, according to them, it is the British government who initiates the process of exit from the EU. And this is the only legal way we have.

But I would like to underline very very clearly: without the notification from the UK, we will not start any negotiations on divorce process or on our future relations.

Brexit is not only about procedures, politics and interests, it is also about our emotions and feelings and I am absolutely sure that I am not alone with this kind of feelings but what has happened, happened and we have to move on also with our regular agenda.”

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201614:36

David Cameron’s statement ahead of the summit.

Good afternoon. I’ll be explaining that Britain will be leaving the European Union but I want that process to be as constructive as possible, and I hope the outcome can be as constructive as possible, because of course, while we’re leaving the European Union, we mustn’t be turning our backs on Europe. These countries are our neighbours, our friends, our allies, our partners and I very much hope we’ll seek the closest possible relationship in terms of trade and cooperation and security, because that is good for us and that is good for them. And that’s the spirit in which the discussions I think will be held today.

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201614:29

Guaranteed this’ll be stuck in your head by the time you finish reading @GeorgiGotev’s piece…

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201614:20

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201613:35

Matthew Tempest 28/06/201613:23

Matthew Tempest 28/06/201613:18

James Crisp 28/06/201613:16

Matthew Tempest 28/06/201612:59

Scenes from on the ground back in the UK – Manchester, where the UK vote was announced just five days ago.

Matthew Tempest 28/06/201612:55

Cameron was supposed to arrive at the Commission at 12.30pm – arrived 10 minutes early, no words to the press.

Matthew Tempest 28/06/201612:50

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201611:53

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201611:51

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201611:45

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201611:45

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201611:44

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201611:38

Nigel Farage accuses the EU of “lying” to its citizens.

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201611:34

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201611:32

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201611:30

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201611:29

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201611:29

Samuel Morgan 28/06/201611:28
Frédéric Simon 28/06/201611:12

Another interesting point is *how* to actually trigger Article 50. The standard procedure would be to send a formal letter to the EU institutions, according to the senior EU diplomat who was briefing journalists yesterday.

But an oral procedure, like a public declaration by the (acting) Prime Minister, would also work, the diplomat explained. In fact, the eventuality of such a procedure has already been examined by jurists at the European Council who confirmed it was legal validity, the diplomat explained.

Cameron should watch his mouth tonight!

Frédéric Simon 28/06/201610:12

This is difficult to sell in the UK politically, however. Britain needs assurances that it will retain some sort of privileged status — and access to the single market — after it leaves the EU.

Only such a promise on the EU side could appease the market turmoil that has sunk the Sterling to its lowest level in decades since last week’s Brexit referendum.

But the remaining 27 EU member states have no interest in doing this (see previous post). They have already paid dearly for single market access in the form of lost sovereignty.

“A Norwegian solution” with full access to the single market in exchange for full observance of EU rules “would be the best solution economically,” explained a senior diplomatic source yesterday. “But this would be difficult to swallow for those who campaigned exactly for the opposite” (i.e: regaining Britain’s sovereignty).

Frédéric Simon 28/06/201609:41

“No country can start discussions on its future status with the EU — formally or informally — until it formally notifies its intention to leave”.

Some may wonder why Germany, France — and the EU institutions more generally — were so tough in underlining this point over the past few days.

The reason was explained by a senior EU diplomat yesterday and can be summarised in one word: “contagion”. If one country is allowed to do this (i.e.: negotiate its new status while still being inside the EU), this would encourage others to seek better membership terms with a re-negotiation “à la carte”. In other words, this would start the EU’s unraveling and eventual demise.

This is what German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, meant when they said “out is out”.

Frédéric Simon 28/06/201608:42

As often when the EU is in crisis, attention turns to Paris and Berlin for some kind of joint initiative to relaunch (or preserve) the European project.

But disagreement between the two capitals over the way forward for the EU-27 were laid bare after Brexit. While Hollande insists on “fiscal and social harmonisation” centered around the a reformed euro zone, Angela Merkel is reluctant to take any initiative that could deepen the divide with Britain.

Besides, both Hollande and Merkel face crucial general elections in Spring next year, which doesn’t leave enough time to launch any big new project.

As expected, the mini-summit in Berlin yesterday between Hollande, Merkel and Renzi only resulted in empty promises about “new impetus” for “concrete actions”. But a senior diplomat in Brussels who knows the EU machinery as well as the Berlin-Paris axis warned reporters not to expect much concrete at this stage.

Frédéric Simon 28/06/201608:35

The timetable of Britain’s withdrawal of the EU will be at the centre of discussion during a dinner meeting tonight at the summit. But it’s now clear David Cameron will not activate Article 50 of the EU treaty because of the leadership vacuum left by his resignation as Prime Minister.

Frédéric Simon 28/06/201608:34

James Crisp 27/06/201620:19

James Crisp 27/06/201620:19

James Crisp 27/06/201620:18

Samuel Morgan 27/06/201619:48

Jorge Valero 27/06/201617:08

An EU diplomat said on Monday (27 June) that it would be the European Council (and not the Commission) that would lead the negotiations with the UK in order to prepare the divorce. Given David Cameron’s reluctance to trigger Article 50 to begin the process, some diplomats have discussed informally cancelling Britain’s voting rights (Article 7) to force the prime minister to activate it.

Samuel Morgan 27/06/201617:05

Samuel Morgan 27/06/201616:09

Norway’s parliament voted to attach the country to the EU’s financial supervisory body on 14 June; critics called it the “biggest concession of sovereignty since the European Economic Area agreement”. As the UK and the EU embark on the next phase, this may put paid to any hopes of adopting the so-called Norwegian model.

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Samuel Morgan 27/06/201610:58

If you just got back from Mars and missed the goings-on of the the last three days, be sure to catch-up via this link, before checking back in with the latest developments here.