German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought on Saturday to temper pressure from Paris, Brussels and her own government to force Britain into negotiating a quick divorce from the EU, despite warnings that hesitation will let populism take hold.
Eurosceptics in other member states applauded Britons’ decision to leave the European Union in a referendum that sent shockwaves around the world, with far-right demands for a similar vote in Slovakia underlining the risk of a domino effect.
With the referendum decision finally made on Thursday and Prime Minister David Cameron having announced his resignation, European politicians and institutions felt free to shower demands on Britain over its future outside the world’s largest trading bloc.
The European Central Bank said Britain’s financial industry, which employs 2.2 million people, would lose the right to serve clients in the EU unless the country signed up to its single market – anathema to “Leave” campaigners, who are set to lead the next government in London.
Almost alone in continental Europe, Merkel tried to slow the rush to get Britain out of the EU door. Europe’s most powerful leader made clear she would not press Cameron after he indicated Britain would not seek formal exit negotiations until October at least.
“Quite honestly, it should not take ages, that is true, but I would not fight now for a short time frame,” Merkel told a news conference.
“The negotiations must take place in a businesslike, good climate,” she said. “Britain will remain a close partner, with which we are linked economically.”
OTHERS DEMAND URGENCY
Britain’s decision to leave the EU is the biggest blow since World War Two to the European project of forging greater unity. But Merkel appeared more conciliatory than others within her coalition government and elsewhere in Europe.
The chief executive of Britain’s “Vote Leave” campaign called for informal talks before London notifies the EU it wants to leave under the Lisbon Treaty, which provides for two years of divorce proceedings.