EU presses U.K. for exit talks after Brexit vote

‘Negotiations must take place in a businesslike, good climate,’ says ​Angela Merkel

The six founding members of the European Union met in Berlin on Saturday in response to Britain’s vote to leave the bloc.

The foreign ministers of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands were expected to discuss the process and speed of Britain’s exit.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister said Britain needs to quickly start negotiations with the European Union on its exit from the trade bloc.

Speaking in Berlin after the meeting, Jean Asselborn said he hoped there would be no “cat and mouse” game now and that Britain would invoke Article 50 of the EU charter, which allows for a country to leave.

“There must be clarity,” Asselborn told reporters. “The people have spoken and we need to implement this decision.”

He added that once outside the bloc, Britain would be a “third country” — the EU term for non-members — in terms of trade agreements but emphasized that was “not meant negatively.”

France warns against ‘period of uncertainty’

“There is a certain urgency … so that we don’t have a period of uncertainty, with financial consequences, political consequences,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said.

He spoke alongside counterparts from the other five founding members of what has become the EU — Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. They all spoke of the need for a speedy renegotiation.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Saturday that Scotland will launch immediate talks with European Union nations and institutions to find a way to remain in the bloc despite Britain’s vote to leave.

Sturgeon said voters in Scotland gave “emphatic” backing to remaining in the bloc. A majority of voters in more-populous England opted to leave.

After meeting with her cabinet she said “we will seek to enter into immediate discussions” with the rest of the EU.

She said a new referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom is “very much on the table.”

The ministers also released a statement pledging to address divergent attitudes toward the EU from its remaining member nations.


Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gave a post-Brexit speech in central London on Saturday, in which he said some parts of the U.K. may have a ‘lesser level of understanding of diversity’ than the rest of the country. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

“We have to find better ways of dealing with these different levels” of commitment to closer European unity, they said.

Founding nations want to increase political and economic cooperation but some newer nations are wary of giving up more sovereignty.

“We are aware that discontent with the functioning of the EU as it is today is manifest in parts of our societies. We take this very seriously and are determined to make the EU work better for all our citizens,” the statement said.

U.K. to remain a ‘close partner,’ says Merkel

​German Chancellor Angela Merkel struck a more conciliatory tone.

“The negotiations must take place in a businesslike, good climate,” Merkel said after a meeting of her conservative party in Hermannswerder, outside Potsdam, to the west of Berlin.

“Britain will remain a close partner, with which we are linked economically,” she said, adding that there was no hurry for Britain to invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty — the first step it must take to set in motion the exit process.

“It should not take ages, that is true, but I would not fight now for a short time frame,” Merkel said.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the media following the U.K.’s referendum vote to leave the EU on June 24, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

Popular petition for 2nd referendum

Almost 52 per cent of those who voted in the U.K. on Thursday supported a withdrawal from the EU. However, there is already a movement underway to hold a second referendum.

More than a million people have added names to a petition demanding the U.K. parliament debate on holding another EU membership vote.

The huge number of participants trying to sign the petition ended up crashing the House of Commons website hosting the document at one point on Friday evening.

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn says Britain must react “calmly and rationally” in the wake of the referendum.

Corbyn, whose Labour Party backed a vote to stay in the bloc, said the areas that voted most strongly to leave are “communities that have effectively been abandoned” by economic change and the austerity policies of Britain’s Conservative government.

He told a meeting in London Saturday that politicians needed to take seriously voters’ concerns about immigration, which led many to back a British exit from the 28-nation EU.

Many Labour legislators strongly backed “remain” and accuse the socialist Corbyn, a longtime critic of the EU, of failing to rally party supporters behind staying in the bloc. Several are trying to
rally support behind a bid to unseat Corbyn.