EU ministers push UK for quick exit

BERLIN, June 25 (UPI) — European Union governments are pushing the United Kingdom for a quick exit after the country voted to end its 43-year membership.

Foreign ministers from the EU’s six founding members — Italy, Belgium, Germany, France, Netherlands and Luxembourg — met in an emergency meeting Saturday in Berlin.

Jean-Marc Ayrault, France’s foreign minister, after the meeting said Britain “must trigger” Article 50 – the method for leaving the EU — and also said Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, needs to step aside quickly for a new leader to manage the transition out. On Friday, Cameron announced he will resign in October and a new leader should be in place in the fall.

UK’s European Commissioner Lord Hill announced plans Saturday to resign, saying “what is done cannot be undone.” In a statement, he said he will remain for a few weeks. Hill was a close ally of Cameron and urged UK to remain in the EU.

He said he didn’t “believe it is right that I should carry on as the British commissioner as though nothing had happened.”

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Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, said also Saturday he will not resign and vowed to fight if members of Parliament trigger a fresh vote on their leader.

Asked whether he would fight to stay he said: “Yes, I am here, hello.” During a speech, he cited a petition urging him to remain.

Corbyn was questioned about claims he had run a “half-hearted” campaign for a Remain vote.

In Berlin, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the six ministers “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 work towards it.”

He noted there is “a certain urgency” for UK to start the process.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, wants Cameron’s successor to trigger Article 50 before October. Otherwise, it turns the situation into a “a period of insecurity … I hope we won’t get into a cat and mouse game over this – that would neither be fitting for Britain nor the European Union.”

Invoking Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty, which was instituted in 2009, allows for two years for withdrawal negotiations. No country has ever left the EU.

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said UK’s breakup with EU was “not an amicable divorce” but they also did not have a “deep love affair.”

He said exit talks should begin immediately.

“Britons decided [Thursday] 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 in an interview with Germany’s ARD television network.

Boris Johnson, London’s former mayor and a Leave campaigner, said there should be “no haste” in the preparations for the exit of Britain.

He said, “Two-thirds of Labor voters voted for Remain in response to our party’s call for that.”

French President François Hollande met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday. Hollande said France will continue a relationship with the UK on military and economic matters.

EU’s 28 commissioners, including Hill, are also scheduled to meet in Brussels on Monday, with a national leaders then meeting Tuesday and Wednesday.

Cameron plans to attend the first day of the summit but then return to London on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, more than 1 million people have signed a petition calling for a second referendum on UK’s membership of the EU.

The vote affected stock markets worldwide, wiping out more than $2 trillion, and the British pound fell to its lowest level in 31 years. Credit rating agency Moody’s cut the UK’s outlook to “negative.”

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