World Adjusts to Brexit Vote After Initial Shock

World Adjusts to Brexit Vote After Initial ShockWorld Adjusts to Brexit Vote After Initial Shock

EU officials have called for the UK to start the exit process “as soon as possible” after voters decided to leave the bloc. But the US president said their decision speaks to the “challenges raised by globalization”.

US President Barack Obama on Friday vowed to respect the will of UK voters after a slim majority voted in favor of leaving the EU in a historic in-or-out referendum, shocking world leaders and markets across the globe.

“The people of the United Kingdom have spoken and we respect their decision,” Obama said in a statement, AFP reported.

The US president said the UK and EU “will remain indispensable partners” of the US even as the parties negotiate their ongoing relationship “to ensure continued stability, security and prosperity for Europe, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the world”.

The UK has long been a key ally for Washington, with Obama casting his voice in the referendum debate in April, when he warned that leaving the EU would mean trade relations would have to be renegotiated.

But he noted in a speech at Stanford University in California that the two countries’ relationship would not be damaged.

“While the UK’s relationship with the European Union will change, one thing that will not is the special relationship between our two nations,” Obama said.

“Yesterday’s vote speaks to the ongoing changes and challenges that are raised by globalization.”

  Berlin Reacts

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel described the decision to leave the bloc as a “watershed for Europe and the European unity process”.

“What the consequences of this would be … would depend on whether we—the other 27 member states of the EU—prove to be willing and able to not draw quick and simple conclusions from the referendum in Great Britain, which would only further divide Europe,” Merkel said.

Europeans must “never forget that the idea of European unity was an idea of peace”, she added.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble earlier this month told Germany’s “Der Spiegel” news magazine that if the UK voted to leave, the country would no longer have access to the single market.

On Friday, he urged Europe to “look forward and deal with this situation”.

But German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier admitted that “we don’t have an answer to all the questions that have arisen” from the vote.

“This is a bitter day for Europe. We never stopped hoping that the British people would reach a different decision and vote in favor of the European Union. They did not do so,” he said.

  “As Soon as Possible”

Following meetings in Brussels, the EU’s top officials, including European Council President Donald Tusk, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker issued a statement calling on London to swiftly finalize the process of leaving the bloc.

“We expect the United Kingdom government to give effect to this decision of the British people as soon as possible, however painful that process may be. Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty,” the senior EU officials said.

But they added that the UK must continue to uphold its obligations to the EU as a member until the process of negotiations is over.

“In a free and democratic process, the British people have expressed their wish to leave the European Union. We regret this decision, but respect it,” they added.

Juncker said the EU would pursue a “reasonable approach”, but renegotiations needed “to get started immediately”.

“Britons decided on Friday that they want to leave the European Union, so it doesn’t make any sense to wait until October to try to negotiate the terms of their departure,” Juncker said, referring to Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to step down from office in October.

French President Francois Hollande will host Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Paris on Saturday, days ahead of a meeting of European leaders. On Monday, Chancellor Merkel is expected to meet with Hollande, Renzi and Tusk in Berlin.

An informal meeting of the EU’s 27 remaining leaders is expected to take place on Wednesday, Tusk said. The European Council will convene on Tuesday and Wednesday to formally discuss the results of the UK vote.