News & Politics

EU Leaders to UK: Hurry Up and Leave Already

Great Britain may not be kicked out the door yet but they’re certainly being handed their hat.

European Union foreign ministers met in an emergency session in Berlin today to discuss the process of Great Britain’s exit from the EU. The tone of their statements following the meeting suggests that they are in a pout about the decision of the British voter. And they demanded that Great Britain begin negotiations to leave the EU immediately rather than in October as British Prime Minister David Cameron said he wants.  In announcing he was going to step down as prime minister, Cameron stated that negotiations would begin following the Conservative Party meeting in October where his successor will be named.

But the rancor was really showing from EU officials in their response.


European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he’d like to get started on it “immediately.”

“Britons decided that they want to leave the European Union, so it doesn’t make any sense to wait until October to try to negotiate the terms of their departure,” Juncker said Friday, referring to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement that he would step down — but not before a new leader could be installed in October.

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested there’s no hurry.

“What’s important is that Great Britain has not put into motion this proposal, and also the agreement isn’t finished,” she said Saturday.

“Great Britain continues to be a full member of the EU with all rights and responsibilities. I also spoke to the British Prime Minister about that and he confirms the same.

“We were sad yesterday that the vote went that way. And that is no reason to be in a way especially nasty during the negotiations, but that must be properly dealt with,” Merkel added.

In an interview with German broadcaster ADN, Juncker said he, too, was deeply saddened by the UK’s 52%-48% vote.

“It is not an amicable divorce, but it also wasn’t a tight love affair,” he said of the EU’s relationship with Britain.

In a statement following the meeting in Berlin Saturday, the foreign ministers of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands said they “expect the UK government to provide clarity and give effect to this decision as soon as possible.”

“We stand ready to work with the institutions once the negotiations in order to define and clarify the future relations between the EU and the UK will start,” the statement said.

Note that Chancellor Merkel is holding out hope that somehow, Great Britain will change its mind and come back to the fold. It may not be a forlorn hope. The negotiations are going to be extraordinarily complex. The web of associations and agreements that held Great Britain to the EU will have to be carefully cut and new ones established. Many observers doubt it can be done in the two-year timeframe.

Nothing could please Merkel more. She figures she has time on her side, given the closeness of the vote. There will be a push for a new referendum so it’s entirely possible another Brexit vote will be held with the outcome in as much doubt as it was this time.