EU Referendum: Europe's Reaction

The consequences and ramifications of the vote to Leave have continued to unfold both in the UK and the EU. Politicians and business leaders have been giving their reactions. While many are gloomy about the decision, they have been resolute in their acceptance of the result and determination to see through all necessary measures.

European Council president Donald Tusk has insisted that the European Union is determined to maintain its unity and principles despite the British decision. Tusk promised to convene informal discussions without David Cameron ahead of a scheduled EU summit next week. He called for exit negotiations to be "speedy and clear", while stating that the UK is subject to EU law until such a time as it is no longer a member of the Union. Over the coming weeks, it seems that there will be significant tensions between the UK and EU over when Article 50 is enacted to start the statutory two-year process of withdrawal. 
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker walked out of a press room in Brussels after being asked whether Brexit marked "the beginning of the end of the EU". He replied "no" before leaving, but has not made any official statement. Martin Schulz the president of the European parliament warned of "consequences" of Britain's decision in a bid to prevent other countries leaving. He said he would speak to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on how to avoid a chain reaction. Martin Weber, chair of the largest block in the European Parliament, claimed that the vote "causes major damage to both sides" while insisting that exit negotiations should be concluded swiftly.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she "deeply regrets" the British vote to leave but insisted that there must be a goal of close future relations between the EU and the UK. However, she She announced that Tusk, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi would be arriving to Berlin for talks on Monday on Brexit.
French President Francois Hollande this morning called an emergency meeting of his cabinet following Britain's decision to leave. In a televised address, Hollande said that Brexit was "a painful choice" that he deeply regretted and that the result posed grave challenges for the EU. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the result was a call for Europe to reinvent itself.
It is likely that the vote to Leave will intensify calls from populist parties across Europe to have their own referendums on membership. Both France and Germany face major elections next year with Eurosceptic parties surging, and this will be an important contextual factor in any negotiations about the UK withdrawal. Neither side will want to be seen to give ground to the UK both as a lesson to their own secessionist movements and to other countries that might consider leaving. Indeed, right-wing French leader Marine Le Pen has already called for her country to be given the chance for an In-Out referendum.

Robert Isherwood

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search