Berlin and Brussels speculate over speed of Brexit negotiations

Germany and the European Union on Sunday remained ambiguous about the speed of Brexit negotations following a vote by Britain to leave the 28-member bloc, with a top EU official thinking they could start as soon as Tuesday.

The president of the EU Parliament, Martin Schulz, told German tabloid Bild am Sonntag he would not tolerate Britain's "dithering" over the issue.

"If we slow down the process only to make concessions to the dithering of the British Conservatives we will harm everyone. A long drawn-out process will only lead to more uncertainty and threaten jobs," he told the paper.

"This is why we now expect the British government to deliver. The summit this coming Tuesday is a good moment for that," Schulz said.

Top European diplomats from the founding members of the EU - including Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries - on Saturday in Berlin had equally called on Britain not to delay its exit from the bloc.

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had cautioned she would not press for a speedy decision, even though she felt negotiations should "not take forever."

Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, also doubted on Sunday that the British government would make its application to leave the EU as soon as the EU summit in Brussels on Tuesday.

"There is no evidence at all that this will happen. I rather think this application will be made in the coming weeks or months, possibly not before a new government is in place," Altmaier told German radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.

The decision when to come forward with its request to leave the EU was up to Britain alone. "In my opinion, we should respect that," Altmaier said.

Meanwhile EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced an initiative to push for fundamental reforms to the bloc during an EU summit in Brussels.

Mogherini said the EU needed to change its focus towards Europe's collective interests in foreign and security policy, in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Sunday.

"I think it's useful to present something that shows confidence. We have the means, the strength and the responsibility to do so. Even if there is lots that needs to change," the Italian lawmaker said.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Saturday had tweeted a picture of himself talking to President Francois Hollande and Italian Premier Matteo Renzi.

"With @MatteoRenzi: France and Italy are united and determined to act together for the future of Europe," Valls said in his Twitter message accompanying the picture.

The trio met in Paris on Saturday to discuss the consequences of the Brexit vote.

Italian daily La Repubblica too reported on Sunday the two countries agreed that a speedy response was needed to the British plans.

Renzi and Hollande are due to meet Germany's Merkel in Berlin on Monday.

Last update: Sun, 26/06/2016 - 18:48

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