(Bloomberg) – The first conflict between the U.K. and the European Union over leaving the bloc loomed as the EU’s dominant powers signaled they wanted a rapid British exit and Prime Minister David Cameron said he was in no hurry.
As nationalist parties in France, Italy, the Netherlands and elsewhere hailed the Brexit vote and called for referendums in their own countries, France’s government spokesman suggested a hard line against Britain and officials in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government said they wanted a quick start to talks.
Cameron, who called the referendum and then campaigned unsuccessfully for a “Remain” vote, indicated he will wait as long as three months before making way for a new leader. He said it will be up to his successor to start the process of disentangling Britain from the treaties that tie it to the soon-to-be-27-member bloc. “Leave” campaign leader Boris Johnson also said there was no need to invoke the official separation process right away.
“The U.K. will no longer be part of the EU and the procedures dealing with its departure will be enacted quickly,” French President Francois Hollande said in a statement. “It’s the rule.”
With financial markets hit by turbulence and anti-EU sentiments on the rise across the continent, EU leaders want to avoid a long period of uncertainty and show they are responding to citizens’ concerns. The British vote turned on the EU’s perceived failure to control immigration and create good jobs.
Many leaders said before the vote that the EU needed to respond to the demands of its citizens regardless of the result. And today there was a renewed call for new yet-to-be-detailed initiatives to make the EU more relevant and functional.
“The election result is in many ways a wake-up call for Europe.” Prime Minister Stefan Loefven said at a press conference in Stockholm. “The EU needs to develop and improve. We must be able to show that the cooperation actually can deal with our common challenges in a way people expect.”
Earlier, Paula Bieler, a leading member of the nationalist Sweden Democrats, tweeted that British rejection of the EU marked “a magical day” and “a day where we celebrate our uniqueness. Today we celebrate genuine and free European diversity!”
Just after 6 a.m. London time, with most votes in, the BBC said there was no way back for the pro-EU side, with voters having favored “Leave” by 52 percent to 48 percent. Now begins a two-year process of negotiating the terms of Britain’s departure. Cameron said in his resignation speech that the U.K. will wait until a new prime minister is in place before triggering exit talks by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. There’s no precedent for a country leaving the EU because it’s never been done.
“I am convinced that we need to hurry up,” Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek told reporters in Luxembourg ahead of an EU meeting. “We have to solve this issue in a short time.”
Hollande met with cabinet members involved in European policy and travels to Berlin Monday to meet Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi ahead of a scheduled June 28-29 summit of EU leaders. Finance ministers could confer as soon as this weekend. Merkel called for a “calm and measured” response and said the goal should be a “close and cooperative relationship” with the U.K.