Merkel: No "cherry-picking" for Britain during EU exit negotiations

Britain won't get to "cherry-pick" the parts of EU membership it wants to keep, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Tuesday, in the wake of last week's British vote to leave the bloc.

Thursday's referendum, in which almost 52 per cent of voters opted for a so-called Brexit, puts one of the European Union's top three economies on the unprecedented track of leaving. It has triggered political disarray in Britain and sent shock waves across the EU.

"Whoever leaves the family can't expect the same privileges as it had before without also having the obligations," Merkel said at a special meeting Tuesday at the Bundestag, or German parliament.

She reiterated that there would be no discussions with Britain, formally or informally, on the framework for leaving the EU until London officially invokes the relevant clause for a member country to leave.

Britain's European partners have been calling for London to invoke Article 50 of the bloc's treaty as soon as possible, after British Prime Minister Cameron said he would leave this to his successor - who is not due to be selected before September.

Markets have been spooked by the Brexit vote, with the British pound plummeting to levels not seen since 1985. The decision also spells uncertainty for businesses and citizens across Britain and the EU.

"I would like the United Kingdom to clarify its position, not today, not tomorrow at 9 am, but quickly," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told EU lawmakers on Tuesday.

"We cannot find ourselves in a period of prolonged uncertainty," he added.

Juncker said he has issued a presidential order banning all EU commissioners from discussing Brexit with London officials for the time being, to avoid any "secret negotiations in dark rooms, with curtains drawn," taking place.

Article 50 sets the clock ticking on a two-year window to reach an exit agreement, with discussions on Britain's future relationship with the EU likely to take place in parallel.

Merkel underscored Britain's continued importance as a partner, but left it up to London to take the lead on what relationship it wants with the EU after the divorce goes through.

The approach needs to be "grown-up and sensible," Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party and a key Leave campaigner, told fellow EU lawmakers on Tuesday.

"Let's cut between us a sensible tariff-free deal and thereafter recognize that the UK will be your friend, that we will trade with you, we will cooperate with you, we will be your best friends in the world," Farage added.

Later Tuesday, Cameron will meet his 27 EU counterparts for the first time since the referendum at a Brussels summit, with discussions expected to focus on the next steps.

Cameron is due to brief his colleagues over dinner about the vote and its repercussions in Britain.

On Wednesday, the other EU leaders will hold informal talks without him to seek a common position on Brexit and launch a discussion on strengthening their bloc.

Merkel said she would use all her strength to help the EU avoid further cracks in its unity and to push for a "more successful Europe."

Last update: Sat, 09/07/2016 - 16:09
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