European officials are trying to get the United Kingdom out of the union as soon as possible.
Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, told The Guardian that it was hard to accept that “a whole continent is taken hostage because of an internal fight in the Tory party.”
The EU is starting to let British politicians know that now they have decided to leave, they don’t also get to call the shots about how and when they do so.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that his successor, to be appointed in October, would be the one to trigger Article 50, which starts the process for a member state to leave the union and is limited to two years of negotiations.
Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, also said there was no “haste” in triggering Article 50, and other pro-Leave politicians have expressed similar views: They will take all the time they need to make sure Britain gets the best deal.
EU politicians have another idea of what’s going to happen. Schulz also told The Guardian that lawyers were currently looking to speed up the triggering of the article.
Uncertainty is “the opposite of what we need,” Schulz said.
The heads of the EU — Council President Donald Dusk, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and Schulz — put out a joint statement earlier on Friday saying that there would be no renegotiation and that they expected the UK to start the process of leaving the union as soon as possible:
“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.
“We now 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 UK voted in a referendum on Thursday to leave the EU. Since the results were announced early on Friday morning, Cameron resigned, the pound fell to its lowest level in over 30 years, and Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that a new referendum on its independence from the UK was “highly likely.”
After he read the brief statement to reporters on Friday, Juncker insisted that Britain’s decision to leave the EU was not the beginning of the end for the bloc. He answered the question, asked by a reporter, with a simple “no” before leaving the room under applause from EU officials.
The statement also stressed that while the situation was unprecedented, the EU has “rules to deal with this in an orderly way.”
“Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union sets out the procedure to be followed if a Member State decides to leave the European Union. We stand ready to launch negotiations swiftly with the United Kingdom regarding the terms and conditions of its withdrawal from the European Union,” the statement said.
They also announced that the deal Cameron had renegotiated with the EU in February would be scrapped, and that until the negotiation process was over, “the United Kingdom remains a member of the European Union, with all the rights and obligations that derive from this.”
They promised a united and strong response to this challenge from the 27 member states and said they hoped to keep the UK a close partner.
Juncker also reassured Britons working for the EU that they would not be forced out of their jobs, which are generally restricted to EU citizens — a status Brits will lose following the end of the negotiations.