UK must leave union as soon as possible, EU foreign ministers say

The European Union’s founding members increased pressure on the UK to leave the bloc as soon as possible following this week’s stunning referendum as Scotland accelerated plans to take another run at independence.

Six EU foreign ministers said in Berlin that the bloc needs to move on and avoid a political vacuum. While EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said he doesn’t expect “an amicable divorce,” German chancellor Angela Merkel repeated her desire to avoid “ugly negotiations.”

“We now have to open the possibility for dealing with Europe’s future,” German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after hosting talks with his colleagues from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg in Berlin on Saturday. “That is why we jointly say: This process should start as soon as possible.”

The aftershocks of last week’s referendum are already beginning to ricochet through Europe and are reshaping the UK’s political landscape a day after prime minister David Cameron announced his intention to resign. Expressing shock about the British vote to leave the UK, Mr Steinmeier told reporters it’s more urgent than ever for the EU to agree on ways to boost jobs and growth.

Germany called the meeting to signal that show the EU can respond quickly to the loss of the UK, yet no immediate proposals emerged from the talks and differences of approach to the exit talks were apparent. 

“Great Britain needs to which kind of relationship it imagines having with the EU,” Ms Merkel told reporters in Potsdam, outside Berlin. Those talks should be “matter-of-fact” and “shouldn’t drag on forever,” she said.

Others were less polite.

“We demand that the 27 other member countries also get respect” from the UK, French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in Berlin. “That’s one of the reasons we came to Berlin today.”

In a sign of how the UK’s membership of the EU is already heading into limbo status, Jonathan Hill, Britain’s representative on the European Commission, said he will resign. “I don’t believe it is right that I should carry on as the British commissioner as though nothing had happened,” he said in an emailed statement.

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