EU Leaders Tell The UK They Want Brexit To Happen Quickly
In the wake of the referendum vote, the remaining 27 member states plan to deliver a tough message to Britain: "We're sorry you're going, but life goes on" and "leave means leave".
European Union leaders will deliver a stark message to Britain on Friday morning that while they are sorry the UK has voted to leave, the separation must now happen quickly.
Senior EU government officials have told BuzzFeed News that the response to the vote is designed to make clear that the rest of the Europe is unwilling to let the Brexit process fester or to agree any new concessions for Britain.
Asked about the possibility of further concessions from the EU, one senior official said: "What would concessions mean? 'Please do stay, we'll let you blackmail us any time you see fit?'"
Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, spoke on Friday morning. His message could be summarised as: "We're sorry that Britain has voted this way, it's not what we wanted, but life goes on."
Tusk confirmed that the EU's 27 heads of state and government will meet on Tuesday – without the UK – at the margins of the scheduled Council to agree next steps.
The message that the 27 will send to Britain will be "put your house in order, but after that we want to move on rapidly", officials told BuzzFeed News.
A hard line was immediately rolled out on Friday morning, first by the largest group in the European parliament, Angela Merkel’s EPP:
Followed by the former vice president of the Commission:
In the afternoon, Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament issued a statement echoing the same position:
Europe’s governments want to put on a show of unity, and will be determined to keep the union of 27 intact. Last month, senior government officials told BuzzFeed News their greatest concern around Brexit was the risk of contagion: calls for referendums elsewhere on membership or on specific aspects of the EU such as Schengen and the euro.
While the final votes were still being counted, anti-EU parties in other member states have already started issuing calls for their own referendums.
BuzzFeed News understands that the European Council is keen for the remaining 27 members to align their messages. "Sherpas" are due to meet on Saturday to set out the groundwork for their leaders to meet to agree a common position on the next steps ahead of Tuesday's meeting.
Italian government sources have told BuzzFeed News that prime minister Matteo Renzi chaired a meeting to discuss the outcome of the UK's referendum this morning in the "situation room" of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers with his foreign minister, economic minister, and the governor of the Bank of Italy.
French President François Hollande also held an emergency summit with his ministers.
Europe's leaders will want the UK to trigger article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union, which outlines the process of withdrawing from the EU, as soon as feasibly possible. Separate government sources have told BuzzFeed News that they want to sort out disengagement in the two years set out by the treaty. On Friday, Tusk said the procedures for withdrawal were clear, and set out by the treaties.
David Cameron's resignation, and his decision to leave the handling of Brexit to his successor, means that it will be at least three months until the procedure is triggered.
However, should the UK government resist triggering article 50 within an acceptable timeframe after that, Europe’s governments could find they have limited room for manoeuvre. The treaty stipulates that it is the country that is leaving that kickstarts the process by notifying the Council of its decision. There is no process for the EU to trigger the withdrawal.
One senior official from a major eurozone government source who spoke to BuzzFeed News ahead of the referendum was nevertheless adamant to rule out a situation where the UK would be allowed to negotiate the rules of a future trade relationship before procedures to separate begin.
Ahead of Thursday’s vote, various European leaders from Hollande and German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble to Juncker were clear in saying “out is out.”
Officials are also worried about potential instability in more recent EU members in eastern Europe. Britain's exit could heighten tensions between pro-European and pro-Russian sections of their populations, one official told BuzzFeed News.
Reports in the New York Times earlier this week suggested that in preparation for a British vote to withdraw, France and Germany were debating the immediate announcement of a joint initiative on European security,