BERLIN, Germany, Jun 25 – Founding EU members are to hold a crisis meeting Saturday on the future of the bloc after Britain’s seismic vote to leave the union and the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron.
As the “Brexit” vote sent global financial markets into freefall, Moody’s cut Britain’s credit rating outlook to “negative”, saying the vote to pull out of the European Union could hurt its economic prospects.
After the shock result German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande led calls for the EU to reform in order to survive a traumatic divorce with Britain.
European leaders are anxious to ensure the transition is as painless as possible, with the foreign ministers of the six EU founding members gathering in Berlin Saturday in the first of a series of crisis meetings over the coming week.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will host his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault, the Netherlands’ Bert Koenders, Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni, Belgium’s Didier Reynders and Luxemburg’s Jean Asselborn for the six-way talks on “current European political issues”, the German foreign ministry said in a statement.
Steinmeier regretted Britain’s decision, saying it was “a sad day for Europe and the United Kingdom”.
Paris and Berlin will present their partners with “concrete solutions” to make the EU “more effective”, Ayrault told AFP.
– ‘Blow to Europe’ –
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who called the result a “blow” to Europe, said she would host the leaders of France and Italy along with EU President Donald Tusk in Berlin on Monday to try to chart a reform plan.
“We take note of the British people’s decision with regret. There is no doubt that this is a blow to Europe and to the European unification process,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin.
With global markets in turmoil, she said it was important to “not draw quick and simple conclusions from the referendum in Great Britain, which would only further divide Europe.”
EU chiefs have urged Britain to leave as “soon as possible, however painful that process may be”.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said he was “very sad” that Britain had voted to leave, but repeated that there would be “no renegotiation” of Britain’s membership.
Leaders of the EU, born out of a determination to forge lasting peace after two world wars, will open a two-day summit on Tuesday to grapple with Britain’s decision.
The shock outcome of Thursday’s historic referendum could have a knock-on effect on other EU members battling hostility to Brussels and possibly lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom after Scotland raised the prospect of another independence vote.