World Economy

EU Leaders Rule Out Informal Brexit Talks

EU Leaders Rule Out Informal Brexit Talks EU Leaders Rule Out Informal Brexit Talks

The leaders of Germany, France and Italy have insisted that no Brexit talks of any kind can begin until Britain has formally applied to leave the European Union, which EU officials expect to happen before the end of the year.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted talks with French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Berlin. The leaders called for a “new impulse” to strengthen the EU, news outlets reported.

Last Thursday, British citizens voted 52-48 in favor of leaving the EU in a historic referendum.

On the eve of a crunch summit in Brussels, Merkel said she, along with Hollande and Renzi, had agreed at their meeting that “there will be no formal or informal talks about Britain’s exit” until the UK has triggered Article 50, the untested procedure that governs a member state leaving.

Hollande urged Britain to “not waste time” in launching the leaving process. “Being responsible means not wasting time in engaging with the question of Britain’s departure and setting this new impulse we want to lend the new European Union,” he said, adding that “nothing is worse than uncertainty–and Britain has already had painful experience of this”.

Addressing Germany’s Bundestag lower house of parliament on Tuesday before heading to Brussels for talks on Britain’s shock decision to leave the EU, Merkel said London would not get special treatment.

She said Britain will not be able to cherry-pick the parts of the European Union it wants, such as the single market, without accepting principles like free movement when it negotiates its exit from the bloc.

“We’ll ensure that negotiations don’t take place according to the principle of cherry-picking ... It must and will make a noticeable difference whether a country wants to be a member of the family of the European Union or not,” she said.

“Whoever wants to leave this family can’t expect to do away with all of its responsibilities while keeping the privileges,” added Merkel, striking a tougher note than in the last few days.

Countries that want access to the single market must accept the principles and obligations that go with them, she said.

Fearful of a prolonged period of political and economic uncertainty, European leaders are eager for the UK to make a swift start on the marathon task of extricating itself from the bloc by triggering Article 50 as soon as possible.

  UK Thinks Differently

But London is reluctant to launch formal exit proceedings yet. Chancellor George Osborne said the UK would activate Article 50 only when it has a “clear view” of how its future relations with the bloc would look.

David Cameron has left the task to his successor and leading Brexit campaigners have repeatedly said they want informal talks on the possible terms of a withdrawal deal before locking Britain into the strict two-year timeframe laid down in the article 50 process.

Cameron is due to attend the Tuesday evening summit dinner and explain Britain’s position before going back to London, leaving the remaining 27 member states to discuss on Wednesday how to handle the biggest blow to the bloc in its 60-year history.

The EU has no legal means to force Britain to launch the exit process and diplomats in Brussels now believe the UK should probably be given until the end of the year at the latest to start the withdrawal process, allowing it time to leave the EU before European parliament elections and the appointment of a new European commission in 2019.

Some, however, have warned Britain “may never” trigger the formal divorce process because the tight deadline for talks puts the leaver in a weak position.