Germany Rules Out Informal 'Brexit' Talks Amid Diplomacy
June 27, 2016
Germany has warned that there will be no informal talks on the conditions for Britain leaving the European Union without London filing formal notice of its intent to quit, as top EU and U.S. officials scrambled to contain the fallout from the vote.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Europe on June 27, where he held emergency talks in Brussels with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and EU foreign-policy chief Frederica Mogherini before departing for London to meet with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.
The leaders of Germany, France, and Italy, meanwhile, were expected to meet in Berlin to tackle the crisis. Germany and France have said they are "united" in tackling the crisis.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said that "one thing is clear -- before Great Britain has sent this notification, there will be no informal preliminary talks about the exit modalities."
Only Britain can invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty, which triggers the formal process by which the country would leave the union.
Departing Prime Minister David Cameron has signaled that it could take several months before Article 50 is invoked, but Seibert said that "the uncertainty cannot continue forever."
Germany's position was echoed by Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, who said Brussels can't afford to spend a "year on procedures" for Britain's exit from the European Union.
But Cameron, who on June 27 led his first cabinet meeting since the referendum, urged his top ministers to get on with business.
Cameron set up a new unit to help lay the groundwork for a "Brexit," or Britain's exit from the EU, his spokeswoman said.
Cameron's spokeswoman on June 27 said the government "will not tolerate intolerance" after Poland's embassy to London voiced concern over what it said were recent incidents of xenophobic abuse targeting the Polish community and other migrants in Britain.
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, speaking in Brussels, warned the other 27 European Union nations not to be revengeful toward Britain despite its decision to leave the bloc.
After meeting with EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini on June 27, Kerry said it's "absolutely essential that we stay focused on how, in this transitional period, nobody loses their head, nobody goes off half-cocked, people don't start ginning up scatterbrained or revengeful premises."
Meanwhile, despite reassurances by treasury head George Osborne that Britain's economy was "as strong as could be" to deal with the Brexit consequences, the British pound dropped to a new 31-year low on June 27, sinking below $1.32 for the first time since 1985.
The London Stock Exchange temporarily suspended trading in shares of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Barclays when they briefly moved out of the trading range of 8 percent -- an automatic action.
Trading resumed after five minutes.
Other British stocks are also experiencing sharp volatility in the aftermath of the vote, including budget airline EasyJet, which flies to multiple EU destinations.
On June 24, the surprise Brexit result had wiped some $2.1 trillion off market valuations.
Osborne said he had been in touch regularly with Bank of England Governor Mark Carney since the result of the referendum was announced on June 24, adding there were well-thought-through contingency plans if needed.
The British pound recovered some of its lost ground on June 27 after Osborne's statement.
The currency last traded at $1.35, after it had fallen as far as $1.34 in Asian trading and to $1.32 on June 24, its lowest in 31 years.
European leaders, meanwhile, stepped up pressure on Britain to immediately begin its complex exit from the 28-country EU.
European Parliament chief Martin Schulz warned on June 26 that a period of limbo would "lead to even more insecurity and thus endanger jobs," adding that a summit of EU leaders this week was the "right time" to begin exit proceedings.
Political turmoil has rocked Britain as leaders struggle with the question of how precisely the country would separate from the other 27 states in the bloc.
Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who led the "leave" campaign and is tipped to replace Cameron, has said that Britain will continue to "intensify" cooperation with the EU.
He also said there was "no great rush" for Britain to extricate itself from the bloc.
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is also facing pressure to step down, with several shadow cabinet members and lawmakers resigning on June 26 in protest at what they see as a lack of stronger pro-European leadership by Corbyn.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on June 26 she would do whatever it takes to keep pro-EU Scotland in the bloc.
Sturgeon said she would "consider" advising the Scottish Parliament to try to use its power to prevent Britain from actually leaving the EU.
She said Scottish lawmakers might be able to derail the move by withholding "legislative consent" for a British exit.
A key ally of Germany's chancellor has, meanwhile, said an independent Scotland would be welcome to join the European Union.
"The EU will still consist of 28 member states, as I expect a new independence referendum in Scotland, which will then be successful," Gunther Krichbaum, a member of Merkel's conservatives and chairman of the European Affairs Committee in parliament, told the Welt Am Sonntag newspaper.
With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and dpa
Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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