BRUSSELS: A stunned EU has urged Britain to leave as “soon as possible” amid fears the devastating blow to European unity could spark a chain reaction of further referendums.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande led calls for the European Union to reform in order to survive a traumatic divorce with Britain following its vote to leave.
In a sign that the bloc wants to move on swiftly, EU chiefs told Britain in a strongly-worded joint statement to “give effect to this decision of the British people as soon as possible, however painful that process may be”.
The uncompromising stance came after Prime Minister David Cameron said he would resign and leave the negotiations for Britain’s departure from the 28-nation club to a successor who will be named by October.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said he was “very sad” that Britain had voted to leave, but repeated that there would be “no renegotiation“ of Britain’s membership.
Juncker, a former Luxembourg premier and strong federalist, said “no” when asked if the vote spelt the beginning of the end for a European Union that faces a huge rise in populist and eurosceptic parties.
Worried European leaders will hold a series of crisis talks in coming days, with Merkel saying she 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 said in Berlin.
She said it was important to “not draw quick and simple conclusions from the referendum, which would only further divide Europe”.
Hollande said the Brexit vote was a “grave test for Europe”, adding that the bloc “must show solidity and strength in its response to the economic and financial risks”. — AFP