Thursday

7th Jul 2022

EU will not press UK for immediate exit talks

  • "There is no need to be nasty," said Merkel (l, with Cameron)

Three days after the UK voted to leave the EU, leaders of the 27 remaining member states have acknowledged that there is a "very significant crisis" in the country and they will not push the British prime minister to launch the exit procedure immediately.

"We don't expect [David] Cameron to trigger article 50. There is a broad understanding on why," a senior EU official said Sunday (26 June), referring to the article of the EU treaty organising the process.

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  • Cameron will inform his colleagues about the situation in the UK (Photo: Consillium)

Article 50 can be applied only when Cameron notifies the EU of his country's will to leave the bloc.

When they meet at a summit in Brussels on Tuesday, EU leaders will say they stand ready to begin the process swiftly and that they expect notification as soon as possible. But they will not ask for it.

"The interest of everyone it is to have certainty and predictability on the next steps. But the crisis in the UK, which is not only about leadership in the governing party, goes much deeper," the official said.

Over a working dinner on Tuesday evening, Cameron will inform his colleagues about the outcome of Thursday's referendum and the situation in the UK.

Following the vote, Cameron has said he would resign after summer. The Scottish first minister has said she would be entitled to organise a second referendum on independence, and the opposition Labour party is in a leadership crisis.

Leaders of the Leave campaign have admitted that they had no prepared plan for a Brexit and that some of their promises could not be met.

“We never made any commitments. We just made a series of promises that were possibilities,” Conservative MP Iain Duncan-Smith said on Sunday.

A petition calling for a new referendum has reached almost 3.5 million signatures, although doubts emerged over the authenticity of some signatories.

The destabilisation of the British political establishment and the risk of a break-up of the UK have led EU leaders to tone down their calls for a quick exit process.

In a joint statement on Friday, the presidents of the European Commission, Council, and Parliament and the Dutch prime minister, whose country currently chair the council of ministers, called on the British government to trigger article 50 "as soon as possible, however painful that process may be."

"Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty," they added.

'No need to be nasty'

The decision to give more time to Cameron was taken at a meeting of the 27 sherpas - the leaders' EU advisers - and EU ambassadors in Brussels on Sunday.

The discussion had been prepared by a series of consultations in recent days and was consensual, sources from member states told EUobserver.

"There is more understanding in capitals" than in Brussels that the exit process should not be triggered on Tuesday, the EU official said.

The move was initiated by German chancellor Angela Merkel.

On Saturday, she said that the Brexit process "should not take ages" but she added that there was "no reason to fight now, pushing for a short time period".

"There is no need to be nasty," she added.

In a message posted on Twitter on Sunday, Merkel's head of cabinet Peter Altmaier said that the EU "should allow for careful consideration of the consequences" of the referendum.

Future relations

At Tuesday's summit, EU leaders could be at odds over the length of the delay for "consideration of the consequences".

France in particular has said the process should be launched soon.

"The emergency is the respect of article 50. There is no reason to play cat and mouse," French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Saturday.

One of the criteria over which to decide when to launch the process will be the negotiation for the new relationship between the EU and the UK.

"One principle is clear: there will be no negotiation on the future of relations before the notification," the EU official said.

Analysis

After Brexit, EU leaders start soul-searching

The general public and financial markets are waiting for the EU's response to the British shock. But when leaders meet at next week's summit, there will be more questions than answers.

EU gangs up on Cameron

French diplomacy chief called for a new British PM in next “few days”, while the EU commission said Brexit was Cameron's fault.

EU leaders to seek clarity on Brexit date


EU leaders meeting in Brussels will discuss when the legal process for the UK exit from the EU could start, amid growing questions of whether it will happen at all.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

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