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EU Ministers Call On Britain To Quickly Start Exit Process

  • RFE/RL

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says the European Union's six founding states want Britain to begin leaving the union "as soon as possible" in order to keep the bloc from being stranded in political "limbo."

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says the European Union's six founding states want Britain to begin leaving the union "as soon as possible" in order to keep the bloc from being stranded in political "limbo."

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says the European Union's six founding states want Britain to begin leaving the union "as soon as possible" in order to keep the bloc from being stranded in political "limbo."

Steinmeier made the remark after hosting crisis talks on June 25 with the foreign ministers of France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

The talks came as more than 2 million Britons signed an online petition urging the government to hold a second referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union, signaling the extraordinary divisiveness of the vote to leave the 28-nation bloc.

Steinmeier said the six original states of the European Union "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."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the June 25 crisis talks that it "shouldn't take forever" for exit negotiations with Britain to begin, but she said the decision is a matter that is up to Britain.

European Council President Donald Tusk, meanwhile, appointed a Belgian diplomat to coordinate negotiations with Britain on its exit from the EU.

Didier Seeuws was chief of staff to Herman Van Rompuy, Tusk's Belgian predecessor as chairman of EU summits, until 2014. He was a spokesman for Guy Verhofstadt when the liberal leader in the European Parliament, a strong advocate of deeper EU integration, was Belgian prime minister in 1999-2008.

To begin the process, Britain must give formal notice of its intention to leave the EU by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

But under Britain's constitution, that move would require an act of Parliament that goes through both chambers of the legislatures and all of its committee stages.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said on June 24 that he would resign from office before October, but would continue at his post for the next three months to guide the country.

Cameron also suggested that he would not invoke Article 50, but instead, would leave that formal notification process to Britain's next government.

Other European leaders want to ensure the transition is economically, politically, and socially as painless as possible.

They've stressed the importance of a quick transition that reduces uncertainties on financial markets, which were pummeled on June 24 by news of the results from the so-called Brexit referendum.

But although 52 percent of voters in Britain's June 23 referendum sided with leaving the EU, compared to 48 percent who voted to remain in the bloc, the referendum is not legally binding.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on June 25 called for Cameron to resign within the coming days and for Britain to quickly begin negotiations on its exit from the EU.

Ayrault also said pressure would be "very strong" on Cameron to speed up the process on June 28 when he is scheduled to attend an EU summit.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said after the emergency crisis talks near Berlin on June 25 that the ministers don't want a political vacuum after the Brexit vote.

He said the days and weeks ahead would not be business as usual.

Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said after the June 25 talks that Britain should not "play a game of cat-and-mouse" by delaying the start of the exit negotiations.

The talks came amid a petition to parliament that called on the government to "implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60 percent, based a turnout less than 75 percent, there should be another referendum."

Parliament is obliged to "consider for a debate" all petitions attracting more than 100,000 signatures.

Cameron has previously said that holding a second referendum would not be possible.

More than 130,000 people signed another petition urging London Mayor Sadiq Khan to "Declare London independent from the U.K. and apply to join the EU."

Scottish Vote 'Highly Likely'

Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on June 25 that Scotland would launch immediate talks with the EU and was determined to remain in the bloc if the rest of Britain leaves.

On June 24, Sturgeon said it was "highly likely" that Scotland will conduct its own referendum on independence from the United Kingdom if Britain begins the process of leaving the EU on the basis of the nonbinding referendum.

Scotland voted to remain as an EU member in the June 23 referendum.

A 2014 referendum on Scottish independence was defeated, with many voters saying the wanted to remain a part of the United Kingdom in order to remain a part of the EU.

In comments published in German newspapers on June 25, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker expressed concern that anti-EU "populists" in other countries, emboldened by Britain's vote, could push for similar referendums on leaving the EU.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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