BRUSSELS, June 28 (UPI) — The European Union and British Prime Minister David Cameron met Tuesday for the first time following the United Kingdom’s surprise vote last week to leave the 28-nation bloc, mainly to address a rough time frame for London’s departure.
The meeting was a bit awkward, though, for both parties — the EU losing its most prominent member and Cameron, who’d been firmly opposed to leaving, tasked with orchestrating exactly what he did not want to do.
The EU has signaled a desire for the United Kingdom’s departure to happen as fast as possible, while British officials are said to be in no hurry to finalize the divorce.
“Europe is ready to start the divorce process, even today, without any enthusiasm,” EU President Donald Tusk told Cameron Tuesday.
Immediately after the referendum last week, Cameron announced his resignation and has said it will be his replacement who will do the bulk of the heavy lifting in the “Brexit” process. In fact, that may not happen until September at the earliest.
It remains to be seen whether EU membership will accept a prolonged withdrawal, or demand an expedited pullout.
“I want the United Kingdom to clarify its position. Not today, not tomorrow at 9 a.m., but soon,” EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said. “I would like our British friends to tell us what they want so we can get on with it.”
Tuesday might be the only time Cameron meets with EU leaders on the issue. The British prime minister will be out of office by October and the EU has said it won’t negotiate with him during the Article 50 proceedings, for that very reason.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday there should be no talk about London’s exit until Britain’s parliament first votes to leave, while French President Francois Hollande echoed the sentiments of the EU.
“Being responsible means not wasting time in engaging with the question of Britain’s departure and setting this new impulse we want to lend the new European Union,” Hollande said.
Also Tuesday, Labour Party leader and pro-EU advocate Jeremy Corbyn lost a vote of confidence in London.
Corbyn vowed to stay in office, however, despite the fact that 172 members voted against him.
“I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 percent of Labor members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning,” he said. “Today’s vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy.”