donald tusk.jpg
Photograph: Photo by Platforma Obywatelska RP, used under CC BY-SA

Berlin (dpa) - European Union heavyweights Germany, France and Italy were due to hold crisis talks with EU President Donald Tusk in Paris and Berlin on Monday to discuss Britain's exit from the bloc, ahead of a two-day EU leaders' summit.

Tusk was meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Paris, and both were expected to join German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi for discussions and a working dinner in Berlin later in the day.

There has been pressure from within Europe for London to move quickly to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would trigger a two-year period to negotiate Britain's departure from the 28-member bloc.

In announcing his resignation on Friday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would leave the decision to initiate Article 50 to his successor, who he said was unlikely to be chosen before his Conservatives' party conference in October.

Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday that there would be "no informal talks about the modalities of Brexit" until Britain gives formal notice to the EU, and that the country would be given "a reasonable amount of time" to do so.

Renzi, speaking in the Italian Senate before flying to Berlin, said that "the last thing Europe should do is embark on a discussion on procedures for a year."

This week's EU summit should "be about the relaunch" of the European project and "not just about exit procedures" for Britain, Renzi said, adding that Europe "should think a little more about social issues and a little less about bureaucratic issues."

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on the weekend that divorce proceedings with the EU should be triggered in the coming days, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel later appeared to rein in the pressure by saying that rushing into an exit was unwarranted.

There were also tensions within Germany's ruling coalition about how to handle Brexit proceedings, with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) brushing aside Merkel's call for a softer line toward Britain.

Speaking during a political talk show broadcast by the ARD late Sunday, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said that Britain had "trampled all over the EU" and would not rejoin the bloc during her lifetime.

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