Euro chiefs call for UK to get started
David Cameron and Angela Merkel during happier times. Source: Wikimedia
Germany, France and Italy are calling on Britain to start the process of leaving the EU, saying they want to move forward and limit financial damage.
“There’s nothing worse than uncertainty that generates political and financial behaviour that can be irrational,” France’s President Francois Hollande told the media beside Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Berlin. Merkel said: “Of course we talked about the markets” and “that’s why we believe we need to convey a common purpose”.
“I want to say very clearly tonight that I see no way to reverse this,” Merkel said when asked about the possibility of a British U-turn. “We all need to look at the reality of the situation. It is not the hour for wishful thinking.”
EU Council President Donald Tusk agreed: “Europe is ready to start the divorce process, even today.”
The other 27 EU countries need to give a “new impulse” with joint proposals on security, defence, growth, competitiveness and reducing youth unemployment, Merkel said. Plans should also address fiscal “harmonisation” in the euro area and be ready by September, Hollande said.
The trio met at Merkel’s invitation in an attempt to demonstrate unity before a two-day summit of all EU leaders starting in Brussels.
As S&P Global Ratings agency cut the UK’s top credit grade by two levels, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned that market pressure on bank stocks was building.
“We will continue monitoring the situation in the financial markets with a gut feeling that’s not all good,” Schaeuble said. Britain’s decision to leave the EU did not look “reversible”, he said.
Merkel and Hollande both said rapid action was needed on the UK’s exit process, although the veteran German leader offered leeway on the timeline and refused to set a deadline.
“We agree that there won’t be any informal, or formal, talks about Britain’s exit before the European Council has received the exit application,” Merkel said. “It’s surely not a matter of days, but we also have to see to it that there’s no limbo. Britain has to take the first step.”
The three leaders said they would call on the EU summit to “set in motion a process based on a concrete timetable and precise commitments”.
“On the one hand we are sad because of the British vote, but we also know this is the right time to write a new page,” Renzi said.